17-year-old former Baraboo student sues district for failing to respond to racial discrimination, sexual assaults

Baraboo Superintendent says the district has not been served a lawsuit

BARABOO, Wis. – A 17-year-old girl is suing the Baraboo School District, claiming staff and administration failed to respond to multiple acts of racial harassment and reported sexual assaults.  In a lawsuit filed in the U.S. district court in Madison Wednesday, the plaintiff cites the district’s “deliberate indifference” in dealing with her claims.

The teenager claims the harassment started when she was in first grade, when classmates teased her about her coarse hair and dark skin.  According to court documents, the situation got so bad that the family moved to Georgia.  A couple years later, they moved back due to “personal circumstances.”  At that point, the suit claims the bullying continued, and when the plaintiff’s mother spoke with a school counselor, she was told her daughter was the problem.

The family would move away to North Carolina at the beginning of 2015 as well, before moving back 10 months later due to “family issues.”

The complaint cites multiple instances where the Confederate flag was flown from students’ vehicles and worn on various clothing items and apparel.  It also brings up numerous instances when the word “n*****” was used by students, sometimes directly referring to the plaintiff and her mother, who was eventually employed by the district.

According to the court documents, her mother tried bringing her concerns with students using the derogatory term on a daily basis to administrators.  In response, the district held a couple meetings for families of color to express their frustration.

The mother says she tried holding a “Box out Racism” event at high school basketball games, but the athletic director and Superintendent Lori Mueller wanted to change the word “racism” to “bullying.”  The lawsuit mentions a subsequent event where T-shirts supporting LGBTQ rights were promoted by teachers and staff, while the district “refused to allow a specific anti-racism message on the jerseys.”

Also mentioned in the lawsuit, the now 17-year-old says she received a letter in a locker threatening her and referring to her as a “n*****” and a “slut.”  The associate principal at the time allegedly said he couldn’t do anything about it because there were no cameras in the lockers.  Superintendent Mueller responded by saying, “I am sorry to hear your frustrations and concerns.  We are here to do our best to provide a high quality educational experience in a safe environment.”  The lawsuit claims that was the extent of her statement.

Court documents also say starting in February 2018, the plaintiff was sexually harassed by a white classmate.  According to the lawsuit, he made comments about having sex with her and asked if her vagina was a different color because she’s black.  The filing goes on to say he would slap and rub her buttocks during class, exposed himself, grinded his genitals on her, and grabbed her breasts.  The conduct allegedly happened two to three times a week, despite the plaintiff telling him to stop.

According to the complaint, the teacher supervising the class didn’t discipline or remove him.  That student was convicted of fourth degree sexual harassment the following May.  Days before that, court documents claim a picture on Instagram said the plaintiff and another supposed victim lied about the assault.

Baraboo School District Superintendent Lori Mueller said in a statement: “At this point, the School District of Baraboo has not been served a lawsuit.  If the District receives one, we will not comment without reviewing and seeking advice from legal counsel.”

The attorneys representing the 17-year-old released a statement Wednesday saying: “Sometimes good people don’t stand up to racism because it’s not easy. We are hopeful that by filing this complaint, the good people at the Baraboo School District will do justice for {our client} and the people that come after her.”