Public High School Backed Racist 'Wigger Days,' Student Says in Class Action
MINNEAPOLIS (CN) - Red Wing High School let students hold "Wigger Days" for homecoming - the word stands for "white nigger" - during which white students wore clothes and acted in what "from their perspective, mimicked black culture," a black student says in a federal class action.
Quera Pruitt claims the school district's deliberate indifference to the harm she and others suffered from the Wigger Days "was not only immoral ... it was illegal."
Pruitt says that Red Wing School ISD No. 256 customarily held "Dress Up Days" for homecoming weeks.
She says upperclass students at predominantly white Red Wing High School called them Wigger Days when Pruitt was enrolled, in 2008 and 2009, and that defendant Principal Beth Borgen, "was aware that the Wednesday of Homecoming Week had historically been referred to among the students as 'Wednesday Wigger Day.'"
"Wigger is a pejorative slang term for a white person who emulates the mannerisms, language and fashions associated with African-American culture," the complaint states.
"Wigger is a combination of the words White and Nigger. Wigger, within the Red Wing community, may also mean 'Winger Nigger.'
"Wangsta is also a pejorative slang term for a white person who emulates the mannerisms, language and fashions associated with African-American culture.
"Wangsta is a combination of the words White and gangsta.
"Wangsta, within the Red Wing community, also means 'Winger Gangsta.'
"The students who participated in Wigger or Wangsta day wore clothes that, from their perspective, mimicked Black culture. These costumes included oversized sports jerseys, low-slung pants, baseball hats cocked to the side and 'doo rags' on their heads. Some of the students displayed gang signs.
"Principal Borgen was aware that the Wednesday of Homecoming Week had historically been referred to among the students as 'Wednesday Wigger Day.'
"Indeed, September 30, 2009, was not the first time the students at Red Wing High School held Wigger or Wangsta Day. School officials acknowledge that 'Wednesday Wigger Day' had occurred in at least the 'last couple of years' prior to September 30, 2009."
Pruitt adds: "The defendants' deliberate indifference to the harm plaintiff experienced as a result of 'Wigger Days' was not only immoral, but as the Tenth Circuit made plain, it was illegal: 'It does not take an educational psychologist to conclude that being referred to by one's peers by the most noxious racial epithet in the contemporary American lexicon, being shamed and humiliated on the basis of one's race, and having school authorities ignore or reject one's complaints would adversely affect a Black child's ability to obtain the same benefit from schooling as her white counterparts.' Bryant v. Indep. Sch. Dist. No. I-38 of Garvin Cnty, Okla., 334 F.3d 928, 932 (10th Cir. 2003).
Pruitt says she and her mother complained to school officials, including principal Borgen, about "the racist nature of Wigger Day," but that "Prior to intervention by state and federal government officials, including the Minnesota Department of Human Rights and the United States Department of Education, the defendants did not take school-wide action to address Wigger Day."
She points out that the school receives federal funding.
Pruitt says the school's deliberate indifference to organized racism caused her to suffer "extreme emotional distress including depression, loss of sleep, stress, crying, humiliation, anxiety, and shame."
She adds: "Ms. Pruitt's depression forced her to discontinue her participation in school activities such as track, cheerleading, and student council.
"Ms. Pruitt chose to not participate in her school's Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration because she felt the celebration was a farce in light of the school district's failure to prevent or adequately remediate the conduct that took place on Wigger Day.
"Ms. Pruitt's depression caused her to consider dropping out of school, and caused her to miss out on her own senior prom."
She seeks declaratory judgment and punitive damages for constitutional violations, hostile environment, abetting, racial discrimination and negligence. Red Wing School Superintendent Karsten Anderson is also a defendant.
Pruitt is represented by Joshua Williams.