MILWAUKEE - The ACLU of Wisconsin filed an administrative complaint today against the Chippewa Falls Area Unified School District (CFAUSD) for its chronic failure to properly and meaningfully address pervasive instances of sexual, racial and gender-based harassment on school grounds, alleging that administrators have skirted their legal obligation to protect students by neglecting to take sufficient action when harm is reported.
The ACLU’s complaint was made on behalf of the Cultivative Coalition, a group of four recent Chippewa Falls high school graduates who has been advocating that the district take stronger measures against discrimination and harrassment of students of color and LGBTQ+ students for more than a year. The members decided to form the group because they had either witnessed or experienced discrimination during their time at CFAUSD and felt unsatified with the the district’s reaction.
The complaint details multiple instances in which former and current students experienced racial, sexual and homophobic harassment, by other students, staff and parents while on school property. In each instance, the complaint claims that instead of protecting students from further harassment, the district blamed the individual students for the harassment they endured, and forced the harassed students to find a resolution to the situation.
“The number of students who have bravely stepped forward and shared the incidents of racial, sexual and gender-based harassment that happened to them while at Chippewa Falls schools clearly shows that the District has a pervasive, district-wide problem with student harassment,” said Attorney Elisabeth Lambert, Equal Justice Works Fellow with the ACLU of Wisconsin. “The Chippewa Falls School District must bring an end to the harassment that is happening in its schools and must address the harm that has been caused. Its duty is to provide a school environment where all students can safely learn and thrive, regardless of their race, sexual orientation or gender.”
The Cultavative Coalition ultimately hopes that, at the conclusion of this complaint process, the Chippewa Falls School District will be more transparent about the environment at their schools, will implement anti-harassment programming for staff and students to create a healthier school culture, and will provide a clear and accessible complaint procedure and other strong supports for students who are targets of harassment.
“We hope that in the future, the Chippewa Falls School District will take the claims of harassment made by their students seriously. The District needs to surround those students with support and safety so that they can fully participate in their school experience without fear of further harassment,” the Cultavative Coalition said in a statement. “Students should not have to fear being harassed while they are simply trying to get an education, and the Chippewa Falls School District owes a welcoming and safe environment to its students.”