As part of a complaint we filed in 2019, we asked the Greendale School District to investigate — and meaningfully act upon — a series of racist incidents in its high school and elementary school, including the use of racial slurs, posting of racially offensive videos, and other harassment that has created a hostile environment. The District promised to develop an equity plan that would address these issues, but the District has not followed through with its commitments. We, along with Attorney Elisabeth Lambert of Wisconsin Education Law & Policy Hub, have sued the District to enforce the equity plan.
One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit is Diannia Merriett, a Greendale resident whose daughter, Chanese Knox, experienced persistent racial harassment — including jokes, slurs, and use of the N-word — while she was a student in Greendale Schools. In 2019, Ms. Merriett and Ms. Knox filed a complaint with the District based on these incidents.
After an internal investigation generated extensive evidence of racial harassment among students in Greendale schools, the District entered a settlement agreement with Ms. Merriett and Ms. Knox. Among other things, the District committed to provide supportive services to students who are victims of racial harassment and to work with a coalition of diverse community members — including representatives of the community organization People Advocating Greendale Equity (PAGE) who is also a plaintiff in this lawsuit — to provide annual assemblies for all middle and high school students addressing topics of race and diversity. In exchange for these commitments from the District, Ms. Merriett and Ms. Knox agreed to dismiss their complaint.
However, the District has failed to provide the promised assemblies. It has also summarily terminated its relationship with the community coalition it agreed to work with. Meanwhile, students of color in Greendale continue to report incidents of racial harassment and discrimination — including 5 documented reports of hate speech during the first two quarters of the 2022-23 school year.
"Greendale School District needs to be held accountable for failing to live up to its end of the bargain," said Elisabeth Lambert, a Wisconsin education attorney and founder of the Wisconsin Education Law and Policy Hub. “In good faith, Ms. Knox entered into a contract with the Greendale School District, after suffering some severe racial harassment. The contract had clear and direct requirements for the District, which would have improved the climate in schools for all students of color. If the District is allowed to wiggle out of this contract, what is to say that the District would ever have to comply with any agreement it signs with anyone in the future?"