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‘She Begged Me to Turn White’: Michigan Family Sues District for Not Protecting Their Adopted Black Daughter from Years of Racial Harassment 

The white parents of a Black high school student are suing their Michigan school district for not protecting their child from racialized harassment. The parents claim the teen has been bullied so much she now wants to be “white.”

The Malick family with their adopted daughter. (ClicktoDetroit Video Screengrab)

In a lawsuit obtained by Atlanta Black Star, the girl’s mother April Malick said after years of her daughter being the target of threats and harassment because of the color of her skin, the African-American girl finally broke. 

“She begged me, begged me to turn white,” April said, “It was heartbreaking.”

The Malicks are suing the district, Croswell-Lexington High School in Croswell, Michigan, and other parties, for violating their daughter’s civil rights by allowing a hostile learning environment and not protecting her from racialized violence and harassment.

They are also claiming officials denied their child substantive due process guaranteed under the 14th Amendment.

The family alleges in the claim the harassment of the girl, who is only identified by her initials C.M., dates back to 2018 when she was in the sixth grade.

These early allegations of bullying, which included being struck by another student because of her race, were submitted to the school board, Dan Gilbertson (the superintendent), and the local police, but the family believes their complaints were left unresolved.

C.M., the lawsuit reveals, is only one of three Black students in a school district population of 2,053. The lack of diversity has not only left the child without cultural reflections but also scarred by white ignorance and projected ideas of Black inferiority, the family maintains.

Click on Detroit reports the family lawyer Deborah Gordon said the administrators and educators in the school district neglected their duties. She said, “You have adults standing by and not taking action.” This is the core of their suit.

“During C.M. ‘s sixth grade (2018- 2019) and seventh grade (2019- 2020) school years,” the filing states, the student was “relentlessly bullied and harassed because she was Black, including regularly called the n-word. Students also made fun of her ‘wig’ and threatened to ‘rip her wig off.’” 

The parents say in the complaint the principal acknowledges C.M. was being bullied because of her race, but “could see the negative toll it took on her.”

Because the Malicks did not believe their daughter would be supported by the school’s administration, they homeschooled her for eighth grade — “hoping the school to remedy the harassment” and “send her back to school for ninth grade at the High School.”

“The district took no action to train students or teachers on discrimination, harassment, and bullying, or otherwise remedy its discrimination problem,” the legal complaint reads.

Evidence that the administration did not do any anti-racism work with the school community could be seen in 2021, right before C.M. returned for ninth grade and witnessed a student wearing “a large confederate flag as a cape to school.” 

The claim alleges C.M. returned to school in the fall of 2021, and the targeted bullying amped up a notch from before.

Between September and October 2021, the parents say their teen was called the n-word and “made fun of because she was Black,” told to “go back to the plantation and pick cotton,” told her “these n*****s are gonna get it,” and once had a student mocked the Black Lives Matter movement by kneeling and putting up his fist, staring at C.M., and laughing.” 

Her physical appearance, particularly her hair, became a point of ridicule and mockery. Other students would say to her, “Your hair looks like sh-t,” “I’m going to snatch your weave and burn it” and “I bet your hair is dead.” 

C.M’s father, Rob Malick, said his daughter felt like she was “in the middle of a Klan rally” when she was in her class. He also maintains he believes his daughter is unraveling because of the toxic environment at the school.

On Nov. 12, 2021, the family filed a complaint with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) hoping the agency will intervene.

It said, “Most recently on November 8, 2021, my daughter was subjected to a hostile environment by some Caucasian students and two Caucasian employees. She was constantly subjected to comments and remarks that were racially stereotypical and called a disparaging name.”

“Students would wear shirts with the confederate flag and make derogatory remarks towards my daughter,” the filing continued.

“She was also threatened with bodily harm and death threats. I complained on several occasions, most recently on November 10, 2021, but no remedial solution was reached. I believe my daughter’s race and engaging in protected activity were factors in the hostile environment.”

The Worth Township family also reached out to the Port Huron’s chapter of the NAACP for support.

Cros-Lex Board President Katie Gordon then went on record on the board’s position on racism on their campuses, “We found it necessary to act as a board on this issue because, since the return to the classroom post-COVID, schools across the state, including Croswell-Lexington, have seen an uptick in certain behaviors.”

“While we have always taken a strong stance against discrimination and harassment of any and all unlawful types, we think it important to reiterate this particular policy given some recent occurrences here and statewide,” Gordon declared.

Still, the Malicks believed this was rhetoric and that no sincere effort was made to eradicate student-initiated racist behavior in the schools — specifically regarding their daughter.

The parents further believed by going above the district, their relationship with the school became more contentious and intense, with both sides attending board meetings and securing attorneys. By January of 2022, C.M. has been diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

By February, the family decided to pull the girl from the school building, opting to return to take her classes virtually “to preserve her physical and mental health.”

The Malicks, on behalf of C.M., are asking for compensatory, economic, and non-economic damages, exemplary damages, punitive damages, liquidated damages, and an award of interest, costs, and reasonable attorney fees. 

The Croswell-Lexington Community Schools put out a press release stating they are aware of the lawsuit and said they respect the “judicial process and participate fully.” CLCS added, “We do not tolerate harassment of any sort, including racial harassment. When brought to our attention, we thoroughly investigate all allegations of harassment, including but not limited to racial harassment.” 

“If any alleged harassment is found to have occurred, it is immediately and appropriately addressed and stopped, with consequences to the perpetrators as warranted,” the school collective stated.

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