Northampton County students claim school district allowed racial harassment from classmates

By Jim Boyle | Sep 15, 2014

One former and two current students of Bangor School District in Northampton County,

Pa., claim that school officials have permitted and participated in racially discriminatory language and behavior, according to a civil rights suit filed at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

The three plaintiffs seek punitive relief for pain and suffering caused by one count of intentional race discrimination against the school district. The suit says that teachers and administrators did little to prevent constant harassment against three African-American students performed by a pre-dominantly Caucasian student body.

One plaintiff, Tristan Booker, a 2013 Bangor High School graduate, claims that students repeatedly used racial slurs while speaking to him ever since he move to the area with his family in 2010. Teaching staff was made aware of the language, but no corrective actions were taken, the complaint says.

Students and his football teammates routinely subjected Booker to racial comments, but staff members did not do enough to address the problem, the suit says. In fact, according to the complaint, Booker was subjected to harsher punishments whenever he reacted to the verbal abuse. In 2010, the complaint says, a Caucasian student allegedly approached Booker and started a fight, but Booker received a school suspension while the other student faced no disciplinary action.

The other two plaintiffs are unidentified minors and represented by their parents. Both have also experienced constant harassment and racially charged language as middle school students, the complaint says.

One plaintiff, now a ninth-grader at the high school, claims her teacher would misplace her submitted homework assignments, then give her a failing grade. The complaint says such behavior was not experienced by her Caucasian classmates. She also claims numerous racial jokes have been frequently directed toward her.

The other minor, an eighth-grade student at Bangor Area Middle School, experienced similar behavior from his classmates since he started attending the school district in 2010. He also claims that his numerous complaints to administration were ignored, and that his teachers also displayed discriminatory actions.

For example, the suit says, his sixth grade teacher at DeFranco Elementary School was reluctant to correct a mistaken grade and refused to call on him when he attempted to participate in class. When he entered the eighth grade, administrators placed him in a slower-performing homeroom allegedly because of his race. The placement with under performing students caused the plaintiff's academic work to suffer, the complaint says, but his teachers did nothing to remedy the situation.

The plaintiffs are represented by Sidney L. Gold & Associates and McCarthy Weisberg Cummings.

The federal case ID number is 5:14-cv-05242-LS.

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