When Black and biracial students faced racial harassment and disparate punishment in the Oshkosh Area School District (OASD), the ACLU of Wisconsin took the case to the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (OCR).


Elisabeth Lambert, Staff Attorney

Case Timeline

Racial harassment

2020 - 2021

The mother of two Black siblings who attend Merrill Middle School reported racial harassment to school administrators, only for them to ignore the claims and fail to investigate.

One of the siblings is a seventh-grade boy who reported experiencing racially disparate punishment at OASD schools since he was in Kindergarten, sometimes for minor things such as putting his head on his desk. His sixth-grade sister also experienced persistent racial harassment, and was targeted by a student who she says harassed her daily, and called her the n-word. 

Halloween dance

October, 2021

At the Halloween dance at Merrill Middle School, a white student with a history of alleged racial bullying (see previous) instigated a conflict with a group of Black and biracial students by throwing water on them and calling them racial slurs.

Police body camera footage showed white officers and OASD administrators discussing how to most severely refer the Black and biracial students to juvenile intake.

Black and biracial students involved in the Halloween dance incident were expelled, while the white student went unpunished. In one seventh grader's expulsion hearing, the school board official overseeing the hearing said that the racial harassment that occurred was ‘not relevant.’

Complaint filed

April, 2022

The ACLU of Wisconsin filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights on behalf of the siblings' mother, asking them to investigate OASD.

Current status

Awaiting OCR's investigation.