HOUSTON (CN) - A Houston charter school made minority students clean toilets with toothbrushes, and a teacher told an 8-year-old student "she could not be in the front of the line .... because black people should be in the back of the line," her parents claim in Federal Court.
Darrel and Donna Davis sued the Harmony Science Academy NW, three of its teachers, its principal and assistant principal on behalf of their daughter, L.
The Davises say they "began to notice extreme moods of sadness and withdrawal from their daughter" in December 2010.
They say L "began to express horror at returning to Harmony Science Academy and that she wanted to transfer."
"Her parents, who believed in character and strength in the midst of adversity, encouraged her to remain until the semester ended," the complaint states.
The little girl told her parents that one teacher would not give her permission to go to the bathroom, and "as a result she micturated on herself."
"Again, (L) tells her mother of another request to another teacher that she wanted to go to the bathroom and that she was not allowed to go until she almost incurred another excretion," the complaint states.
"These incidents embarrassed (L) and certainly yielded devastation to the fragility of an eight year old entrusted to professionals of a learning institution that self-publicizes distinguished academic and professional credentials.
"The above occurrences alone are perplexing and demonstrative of a problem.
"However, Ms. (L) describes the incident that occurred with Coach T. Brans.
"Ms. (L) hesitantly because of subtle hints that she was different got in the front line of her P.E. class.
"Coach Brans immediately removed her and put her in the back of the line. She innocently asked why.
"In her recitation, Ms. (L) details how that Coach. T. Brans told her that she could not be in the front of the line because she was black and that black people should be in the back of the line.
"The problems didn't stop there but Ms. (L) reported this to another teacher, who simply remarked that she was not going to get involved between her and Coach T. Brans.
"She offered no help to (L) and did not report it to the administrative staff.
"Finally, this same teacher tells Mr. Brans that (L) has an involved mother and that he should rectify the situation before it becomes disclosed by (L).
"Mr. Brans then tries to coerce an eight year old into silence by offering her a bribe to be a Lieutenant of the Physical Education class.
"This shows deliberation, thought and malice by a professional. Yet it shows no remorse but narcissism and prejudice."
The Davises claims the principal, Mr. Coban, "has acted with indifference and has had numerous complaints of discrimination towards minority, specifically a televised news piece that discovered that the teachers had minority students cleaning toilets with toothbrushes."
Houston's CBS affiliate KHOU 11 News broadcast a story in October in which a parent said the Harmony Science Academy NW punished her daughter, a fourth-grader, by making her clean toilets, baseboards and floors with a disinfectant wipe, and no gloves.
"Yeah, it was gross," the girl, who is black, told KHOU.
School officials then issued a statement: "Never under any circumstances is any student required or expected to clean the restrooms at any of our facilities," KHOU reported.
The Davises reject that. They say in the complaint: "Defendant Mr. Coban is the principal and administrator at Harmony Science Academy (NW) who has allowed and supported conduct and policies that was discriminatory towards minority students. Mr. Coban has acted with indifference and has had numerous complaints of discrimination towards minority, specifically a televised news piece that discovered that the teachers had minority students cleaning toilets with toothbrushes. The administration then allowed minor and impressible students to be harassed and deceived into signing confessions that they voluntarily had cleaned the toilets. These confessions were presented to students as other documents under a conspiracy to mitigate the news story validity."
School officials told KHOU they encouraged students to do chores and acknowledged that its children, but described the incident as a bad joke by a teacher taken literally by some students.
The Davises add in their complaint: "Defendant, Deborah Smith is the assistant principal and administrator at Harmony Science Academy (NW) that supported the policies and conduct of the administration of being discriminatory towards minor with both subtle and blatant acts of punishing and rewarding students of color differently from their counterparts.
"Defendant, Stephanie Subirats is a teacher at Harmony Science who conspired to cover up what Coach T. Brans had done to (L) until she believed that Ms. (L) had mustered up some courage to start revealing minimally her treatment at the hands of Coach Brans and other administrative personnel. Additionally, she tried to retaliate by failing Ms. (L) Doe until she realized that litigation could be pending."
The Davises seek punitive damages for civil rights violations.
They are represented by Joseph Plumbar of Humble, Texas.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.