EFFINGHAM COUNTY, Ga (WSAV) — Three Black high school students from Effingham County have filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Effingham County School District.
According to the lawsuit, filed Jan. 5, two students from Effingham County High School and one student from Effingham College and Career Academy and their mothers allege “deliberate indifference to acts of racial animosity” toward Black students while they were attending the schools.
The 12-page lawsuit says that school administrators participated in “an egregious pattern of deliberately ignoring complaints” and showed indifference toward harassment among students.
“It’s just incident, after incident, after incident, after incident,” Effingham County High School parent Lakeisha Hamilton said.
She knew it was time to take the district to court after she found out about an incident in the baseball locker room involving two white team members and a racial slur.
“I hate the N-word was written on a locker. The baseball coach had found it. He reported it to administration,” says Hamilton, whose son plays on the baseball team. She says the incident happened before Thanksgiving break, but she and other parents didn’t find out about it until December 6.
Hamilton tells News 3, “I was livid. I said so, um, how do you expect for me to feel that my son is safe in a school with 2600 kids, when something like this can happen in a locker room where only 20-30 kids have access.”
The alleged locker room incident is one of several racially charged incidents listed in the lawsuit, including a noose allegedly hung in the football locker room, white students caught on camera, in a classroom, mocking the death of George Floyd, and a white student wearing a Hitler costume during Spirit Week in September, after getting permission from a teacher.
Hamilton says that particular incident is, “In total disregard for the feelings of black and especially Jewish students, and there was no consequence to be had, because like I said he had been given prior approval to do it.”
Hamilton also cites differences in how students are disciplined under the dress code. Referencing an incident News 3 covered in 2020 when a black student was kicked out of a sporting event for wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt, but a white student wearing a shirt with profanity on it was allowed to stay.
Black students were also prohibited from wearing Black Lives Matter clothing despite other students wearing Confederate flag attire and the flag being displayed inside the school building, according to the suit.
“There’s still confederate flags in the school from my understanding in the trophy case. There’s a confederate flag etched in a stone on the marble that bears the name of the school. Kids still wear confederate attire.”
In a written statement, Effingham Schools Superintendent Dr. Yancy Ford says neither he nor any other defendants have been served with the lawsuit, at this time.
He goes on to say “Once we have been served, a response to the allegations will be filed in accordance with the rules and procedures of the court.”
Hamilton says she wants the U.S. Department of Education to launch a civil rights investigation into the Effingham County School District. We’ve reached out to them, the state Department of Education and the Georgia Attorney General’s Office about the suit and its allegations. They all said they have no comment.
In the same year, a video apparently showing Effingham County students mocking George Floyd’s death also made the rounds on social media.
The plaintiffs will seek a jury trial and ask the court to rule that the school district violated the student’s rights under the Civil Rights Act and Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. They also ask that the court issue a permanent injunction, requiring [Effingham County School District] to comply with federal law and expunge the incidents from the plaintiffs’ school records.
In a statement, Effingham County School District Superintendent Dr. Yancy Ford says neither he nor any other defendants have been served at this time.
He went on to say: “Once we have been served, a response to the allegations will be filed in accordance with the rules and procedures of the court.”