A husband and wife have filed a lawsuit against the New York City Department of Education on behalf of their two children.
Amos Winbush III and Tiffany Winbush claim in the lawsuit filed on Feb 16 that their 5-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter endured racial abuse from other students attending the predominately white Peck Slip School in Manhattan. Their children were subjected to being spat on, death threats and racial slurs, NBC News reports.
The lawsuit claims that the couple’s children have been subjected to “unimaginable racism” at the school and that teachers along with school officials have enabled the “racially hostile environment.”
“Amos and Tiffany Winbush’s children, K.W. and S.J.W., have endured unimaginable racism, physical and emotional trauma, violence, bullying, and other dehumanizing treatment at their New York City public elementary school known as Peck Slip,” says the lawsuit.
One semester a white female student told K.W. that “she needed to take a
bath, shower and scrub her skin really hard because her skin is brown and that’s dirty,” the lawsuit alleges.
A teary-eyed Winbush, CEO of a tech company, told NBC News he struggled with how his children have been treated.
“What do I say to a 10-year-old or a 5-year-old to make them not internalize these things?” he said. “That’s the part as a dad that breaks me.”
The lawsuit details the couple’s daughter being ridiculed about her hair and appearance while their son was spat on. The couple also noted that both of the children have been physically abused by white students. The kids have both been kicked, and the couple’s son has had his shirt ripped by another student who has threatened “to kill him” on more than one occasion.
“Teachers and school officials have fostered, enabled, and perpetuated a racially hostile environment at Peck Slip, and that environment has emboldened students to harass and abuse the Winbush children physically and emotionally,” read the lawsuit. “For years, the Winbushes have begged school administrators to intercede to stop the harassment and abuse their children are suffering, but their cries have consistently fallen on deaf ears.”
The couple’s daughter was also reportedly harassed by the principal of the school. The principal allegedly pulled the fifth grader from class and scolded her for reporting the racism to her father.
The principal said that what she’d experienced was “hard to believe” because other students did not have those experiences. A teacher also reportedly told the student, “Don’t go home and tell your parents what happens in the classroom because it paints the teachers in a bad light.”
“Protecting the most vulnerable of us is the true sign that humanity possesses the legs of progress,” said Amos Winbush III in a press release.
“When the nation fails to recognize that black boys’ and girls’ experiences are divinely woven into the tapestry of humanity and when we fail to honor that diversity, their innocent eyes, their tiny hands, their brave footsteps; we have failed at the most basic task of honoring ourselves,” he said. “Racism, bigotry and indifference are wrong, it’s dangerous, and it must have no place in our society.”
The couple said that their daughter now needs therapy to cope with the “trauma and psychological injury she has suffered.” Their son also needed medical intervention due to “the vicious assaults on him at school.”
“It is unimaginably painful for a parent to know that their child must attend a school where they will be exposed to racism and daily threats,” the lawsuit said. “This persistent abuse, and school officials’ indifference, has had a demoralizing impact on the Winbush family.”
The lawsuit names the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of New York, New York City Community School District 2, Peck Slip School Principal Maggie Siena, and assistant principal Casey Corey as defendants.
The lawsuit claims that the defendants violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act as well as the 14th Amendment. The family is seeking compensatory and punitive damages for the discrimination as well as “systematic change.”