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Lawsuit: Minnesota Teacher Assaulted and Segregated Black Elementary Children, Principal Told Child to Keep Assault a Secret from Parent

A federal lawsuit accused a Minnesota teacher of assaulting and singling out several of her Black elementary school students.

The lawsuit was filed by Kirsten Lindsey, the parent of child who used to attend Harambee Elementary School in Roseville, reported WCCO. She is suing for racial discrimination, unequal protection, battery, and negligent supervision. The suit targets Roseville Area Schools and Geraldine Cook, a second-grade teacher at the elementary school in the Twin Cities suburb. Lindsey’s son was a student in Cook’s class last school year.

Students at Harambee Elementary walking away from the school buses. (Photo: Harambee Community Cultures/Environmental Science School/Facebook)

According to the court papers, Lindsey’s concern began after she began volunteering at the school and Cook told her she was having issues with a “particular group of students.” The students she was referring to are Black, the lawsuit states. Lindsey also noticed Cook made the Black students sit in a segregated area. Lindsey complained to Delon Smith, the school’s principal, on two separate occasions, but nothing was done.

Cook is also accused of assaulting at least three students, including Lindsey’s son. The lawsuit claims the teacher choked the 7-year-old because he was gargling water in class. Lindsey did not find out about the incident until her son informed her after Cook was removed from the classroom.

The concerned mother later found out six children told Smith about the assault. The lawsuit states the principal told her son to keep the strangling a secret from his mother. Around the time of the choking, Lindsey noticed changes in her son and had a psychological evaluation done, which determined the boy suffered recent trauma. She eventually transferred her son to another school district.

Prior to the transfer, Cook allegedly forced Lindsey’s son to walk “while forcing him to hold his hands behind his back like a criminal defendant,” as a form of retaliation, reported The Star Tribune.

Last October, Cook reportedly grabbed a Black girl’s shirt so hard it ripped. A week later, the court documents report, another student said Cook put her hands on him and “doesn’t like Black kids.” The boy also stated Cook “smooshed the faces” of Black students and shoved them. Cook resigned in December 2019 and surrendered her teaching license in July, The Pioneer Press reported.

Ronald Lindsey, the boy’s uncle, addressed a school board meeting last November and asked that the “assault and/or assaults being inflicted by staff upon minor children and the attempted coverup of these documented facts, not allegations.”

The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office declined to pursue felony charges against Cook last December. The Star Tribune newspaper reports Maplewood police Sgt. Joe Steiner has said, “There was no evidence that a crime occurred.”

Lindsey’s lawsuit is seeking unspecified monetary damages. A school district spokesman declined to comment on the suit because it is pending but confirmed Cook was no longer an employee.

“The safety and wellbeing of our students is our most important obligation. We take very seriously any allegation of a staff person harming a student or acting in a racist way,” the spokesperson told KARE 11 in a statement.

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