Incidents of racial discrimination have become all too common on college campuses across America. This time, Alabama’s Jacksonville State University is under fire for allegedly condoning a “racially hostile educational environment.”
Former JSU student Jalen Green filed a lawsuit against the school June 28, claiming he experienced blatant racial discrimination while he was a member of the school’s Marching Southerners band, AL.com reports. The 38-page suit, filed in U.S. District Court, names the university, band director Kenneth Bodiford, vice president of student affairs Timothy King, an instructor, and two students as defendants.
Seeking damages and monetary compensation, Green’s lawsuit alleges he was subjected to “disparate treatment” and received physical “threats of violence for speaking out against the discrimination” he experienced. According to the Anniston Star, Green dropped out of school in 2015 after suffering mentally and financially as a result of the alleged racial harassment.
Per a written statement by JSU public relations director Buffy Lockette, the school was made aware of Green’s lawsuit last week.
“After being made aware of the stated misconduct, JSU conducted an investigation in which an investigator for the District Attorney’s Office was involved,” the statement read. “We cannot discuss the nature, extent and outcome of that investigation, as student disciplinary records are protected by federal law.”
“JSU is committed to providing our students with an inclusive environment in which to study, learn and grow,” it continued. “Discrimination and intolerance, in any form, is unacceptable and counter-productive to our mission as an institution.”
An investigator from the Calhoun County District Attorney’s Office has since looked into Green’s allegations at the request of JSU, the Anniston Star reports. Examiner Chris Hughes found that what would have been considered criminal activities were reported too late for charges to be filed. All other allegations mentioned were not criminal in nature.
According to Green’s suit, the former JSU student was allegedly called a “n-gger” in front of several veteran band members during band camp in 2011. The offensive slur was reportedly used to “break” incoming freshmen of racial sensitivity, AL.com reports. Also, fellow band members often referred to Blacks as “monkeys,” “rapists,” “criminals” and “murderers,” saying they were “good at running from the police,” the lawsuit claims.
The racist behavior allegedly continued throughout the school year, as band leaders never made an effort to intervene.
At one point, the suit says Green was physically threatened by a veteran member of the trumpet line; the student told Green he’d be “hanging from one of the trees outside of Mason Hall” if he failed to finish his chores.
“Members who engaged in this conduct did so publicly and with complete abandon because it was the norm,” Green’s lawsuit states. “Other white members who did not actively make racist remarks nonetheless kept company with those who did, and otherwise endorsed the conduct by laughing along with it; or staying silent.”
Public relations director Lockette told the Anniston Star that the university has since hired a new chief diversity officer named Jai Ingraham. She said diversity training for the school’s marching band leadership is at the top of Ingraham’s priority list.
According to the newspaper, Green was accepted to JSU in 2011, receiving two music scholarships and a spot on the band’s trumpet line. After the first incident of racial insensitivity, Green’s parents alerted director of student affairs Timothy King, who then turned the matter over to police. The authorities ruled Green’s complaint didn’t “technically violate criminal laws,” the suit states.
Band members’ racist insults later spread to the group’s online Facebook page, AL.com reports. According to the suit, a number of messages containing racially insensitive jokes were posted to the page on a weekly basis.
“It’s outrageous that this kind of stuff happens today,” Green’s lawyer Tammy Shamsie-McCabe said. “This stuff has got to stop. It’s just really disheartening. They robbed him of his education.”
Green ultimately withdrew from the university in December 2015.