The family of a Black Michigan student has filed a $5 million lawsuit against the Farmington Public Schools district, alleging that his white teacher called him the N-word in front of other students in the class, reported FOX 2 Detroit.
The lawsuit, filed against teacher Ellen Ely, says that Ely violated student Marcus Wells’ civil rights after calling him a racial slur, and that she “acted with the intent to cause … emotional distress or with a reckless disregard as to whether her actions would lead to said emotional distress.”
The suit is also accusing Ely of acting under an ulterior motive or purpose.
“It’s been rough” for mother Constance Wells. “I want justice for my son for being called that,” she told Fox 2 Detroit.
In November 2019, Wells, then an 11th grader at Central High School, was threatened by another student in math class. According to the lawsuit, as Wells stood up to defend himself Ely approached him, and reached out her hand as to physically grab plaintiff, then called Wells a n****r out loud in front of his classmates.
“The teacher, Ms. Ely, got up and approached Marcus Wells and called him the N-word,” said attorney Leonard Mungo.
There has been no dispute over whether Ely said the racial slur because multiple witnesses have confirmed that she did through written and verbal statements to agents, servants, and/or employees of Farmington Public Schools, the lawsuit said.
Wells said that as a result of the incident, he has suffered “conscious psychological and emotional pain, suffering, anguish, distress, and fear, past and future; constant and on-going sense of uncertainty and insecurity with regard school and schooling; and disruption of his education, including the loss of friends, teachers, and counselors,” according to the suit.
“He has to go to therapy; he’s dealing with a lot right now,” said his mother.
Wells was pulled from Farmington Public Schools and is now attending high school in another district. Constance Wells said her son now struggles to interact with white people.
“I just want my son to be able to go to a Caucasian and be able to talk to the person without being scared of being violated by them,” she said.
Mungo also indicated that school needed to deal with its own issues of racism, writing in the lawsuit that school officials “created a hostile educational environment” for Wells and other Black students “on the basis of race.”
He also accused them of failing “to train, supervise and discipline the FPS employees and refusal to enforce the laws prohibiting discrimination against African Americans.”
The lawsuit also alleged that on three separate occasions Wells was suspended from school for reasons pertaining to his race. It claimed that white classmates and other white FPS students “were not suspended for the same or similar conduct and or based on their race.”
“We have a count in our complaint that calls to the carpet Farmington Public Schools to answer for custom policy and practice of discrimination,” Mungo told FOX 2 Detroit. “African-American students are suspended and expelled two times that of their white students with the Farmington Public School system.”
FOX 2 received a statement from the school district stating, “Farmington Public Schools strives to provide a safe learning environment for all students. As it relates to the incident in question, there was a full and complete investigation. The teacher involved is no longer employed with Farmington Public Schools. All appropriate remedial measures were undertaken.”
However, for Wells’ attorney, who called Ely’s actions against him “the type of conduct that falls outside all bounds of human decency” the racist conduct of everyone involved must end, for the students’ benefit.
“It must cease, it must stop,” Mungo said. “(This) dehumanizing treatment that is really preparing our children for the human junkyard.”
In addition to monetary damages, Wells is also asking that Farmington Public Schools be ordered to “immediately cease and desist from its disparately suspending/expelling African American students” and for five years, deliver a report every six months detailing its expulsion and suspension of its Black students in comparison to its white students.