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Black Student Sues School Over Monkey Video

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (CN) - A high school girl's basketball coach made a video that superimposed an orangutan's face over a black player's face, with monkey sounds, and showed the video to her class, the student claims in court.

Cloe Lane's father Fred Lane sued Blue Springs School District on behalf of his daughter, in Federal Court. The school district is the only defendant, though the coach and others are identified in the complaint.

Blue Springs, pop. 56,000, is an affluent suburb of Kansas City. Its median household income of $69,148 in 2009 was 153 percent of the statewide median of $45,229, according to Its population is 85 percent white and 6 percent black, according to city-data.

Lane claims the Blue Springs South High School coaches mistreated his daughter repeatedly. He claims they took her on a rafting field trip and despite being told she could not swim, did not help her when she was swept off her feet and nearly drowned.

"Plaintiff Cloe Lane was swept off her feet, went under water multiple times, and screamed for help," the complaint states. "Coach [Fawna] Harrison and Coach [Rachel] Donaldson did nothing to assist plaintiff Cloe Lane and another girl helped her. Instead, Coach Harrison and Coach Donaldson sat on the bank, watching, laughing and taking photographs of plaintiff Cloe Lane's struggle.

"Upon her return from the trip, plaintiff Fred Lane asked Coach Harrison about the incident. Coach Harrison stated that it was one of the funniest things she had ever seen."

The complaint adds: "In October 2011 Coach Harrison told plaintiff Cloe Lane about a video that she had created that depicted plaintiff Cloe Lane's face with an image of an orangutan monkey over plaintiff Cloe Lane's face. Coach Harrison added a digital voice that stated that Coach Donaldson was plaintiff Cloe Lane's favorite coach and teacher. Coach Harrison also added monkey sounds in the background. plaintiff Cloe Lane asked Coach Harrison not to show the video to her class. Both Coach Harrison and Coach Donaldson ignored plaintiff Cloe Lane's request and showed the video to their classes."

Lane says he got nowhere when confronted the school's Activities Director Mark Bubalo about the discrimination, including the orangutan video.

"During the meeting, Mr. Bubalo defended Coach Harrison," the complaint states. "He stated that Coach Harrison has the kid's best interest at heart, and that the video was not racist. He stated that Coach Harrison has a good heart but has lost perspective along the way."

The Lanes seek punitive damages for racial discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and civil rights violations.

They are represented by Gene Graham, with White, Allinder, Graham, Buckley & Carr.

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