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N.J. School Board Ordered to Trial for Racial Slurs

NEWARK, N.J.,  -- Lenape Valley Regional Board of Education admitted as part of a federal lawsuit that a bi-racial high school student was subjected to "an inordinate number of incidents [of racial slurs]" during his 13 months at Lenape Valley Regional High School, where he was one of only a small percentage of minority students. High school principal Douglas deMarrais admitted that between November 2004 and January 2006, Leeann and Edward Lee complained of racial slurs made to their son on multiple occasions, many of which the school confirmed. Defendants admitted the Lees complained that during his Freshman year (November 2004 thought June 2005) their son "E.L." was called the "n" word on the school bus on at least three occasions by three different students, another racial slur by a student on the basketball team, and another racial slur by three girls; and between September 2005 and January 2006, their son was called "ghetto or gangster" by a student who had called him the "n" word the previous year, called the "n" word by a girl who had used the word towards their son the previous year, was told he would be "picking [the] cotton" of a Caucasian student, called the "n" word by that same student a week later, and called the "n" word by another student shortly after.

As Federal Judge Cavanaugh noted in an Order, "in a discussion between Mr. deMarrais and Plaintiffs about Lenape's response to repeated instances of racial harassment, Mr. deMarrais told Mrs. Lee he would 'take the blame for last year.'" In an Order requiring Defendants to stand trial, Judge Cavanaugh also found there was evidence that "E.L...responded to the incidents of racism negatively. ...Ultimately E.L. was told he had to leave Lenape and that he could never return. Throughout E.L.'s time at Lenape incidents of racism persisted."

Judge Cavanaugh denied Lenape and its principal's motion for summary judgment and their motion for reconsideration, and ordered the case to trial following a final pretrial conference on November 19, 2009 in Newark. The suit seeks money damages, a finding that E.L was expelled by Lenape without due process, and a finding that the Defendants failed to remedy the racial harassment.

The Lees are represented by Rebecca Houlding, Esq. of the Law Office of Joshua Friedman. Bennet Zurofsky is serving as local counsel. Lenape and the principal are represented by James McCreedy and Kristin Hayes of Wiley Malehorn Sirota & Raynes.


SOURCE Law Office of Joshua Friedman

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