(CN) — Four Native American parents sued a Montana school district on Friday for racial discrimination, claiming the school denied them entrance to a basketball game because they were not white.
Elsworth GoesAhead, Brandy GoesAhead, Emerine Whiteplume and Whitney Holds, whose children are players on the basketball team from Plenty Coups High School in Pryor, Montana, filed the suit in Stillwater District Court against Reed Point School District, school superintendent Mike Ehinger and co-athletic director Teresa Bare.
According to the lawsuit, the four Native Americans had driven to Reed Point, a small Montana town near Billings, to watch a high school basketball game in January 2017. Upon arrival at the gymnasium, they said a school official told them, “We don’t have any workers yet so we are only letting white people in.”
“We will never forget how it felt to stand outside in the January cold and be told, ‘We’re only letting white people in,’” Elsworth GoesAhead said in a statement. “We want our children, our communities, and all other Montanans to know that racism in Montana is not inevitable and it is always illegal.”
The parents filed a discrimination complaint with the Montana Human Rights Bureau in May 2017, but that complaint resulted in a no-cause finding. The new complaint asks for an order prohibiting discrimination by the Reed Point school district and requiring cultural sensitivity training for the defendants.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Montana is representing the plaintiffs.
“It takes enormous courage and conviction … to continue to stand up and protect their community,” Caitlin Borgmann, executive director of the ACLU of Montana, said in a statement. “Race discrimination is illegal. We are asking the court to uphold these parents’ right to be free from the dehumanizing impacts of discrimination.”