A racial discrimination lawsuit brought against Zumbrota Mazeppa School District by three black students has been settled.
A document filed in U.S. District Court shows the case was settled Feb. 12 in a nine-hour settlement conference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Tony Leung in St. Paul.
The three students, who are sisters, filed the federal lawsuit with the help of attorney Joshua Williams July 27, alleging racial discrimination, that they were subjected to a hostile environment and violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act. The sisters are not identified in court documents.
The original complaint lists former middle school Principal David Fleming, high school Principal Erick Enger, high school guidance counselor Angela Hunstad and high school teacher Angela Heitman as defendants.
The sisters alleged that they were repeatedly called "niggers" by classmates several times from 2008 to 2012. Their complaint also states that the sisters were reprimanded for behaviors by school staff when their white peers were not reprimanded for similar behaviors. In addition, complaints to school staff were not taken seriously, the complaint states.
In settling the lawsuit, Z-M School District admits no wrongdoing.
"Neither Zumbrota-Mazeppa Public Schools nor any of its staff agreed they are liable," a statement from Z-M Supt. Tony Simons says. "The claimants agree that Zumbrota-Mazeppa Public Schools and its staff are not admitting liability."
The case was settled by the district's two insurance carriers, who have the right to settle claims without the consent of the district, the statement continues.
"The carriers chose to exercise that right because of the cost associated with defending the case," it says. "It was not because the carriers believed Zumbrota-Mazeppa Public Schools or its staff did anything wrong or would not ultimately succeed at trial."
In settling the case, Z-M's insurance carriers will pay out $35,000, the statement says. No money will be paid out by the school district.
Attorney Josh Williams also represented former Red Wing High School student Quera Pruitt when she sued Red Wing School District in 2011. Pruitt alleged that she was discriminated against when white students wore stereotypical black clothing to school during homecoming 2009.
That suit was settled July 24, just days before the Z-M suit was filed.
Pruitt was awarded $90,000, which was covered by Red Wing School District's insurance company.