Teen sues Aberdeen School District for not stopping harassment

Dec 8, 2010

An African-American teen in Aberdeen is suing the city’s school district for not keeping him safe from bullying when he was a student.  He alleges administrators knew he endured racial and sexual harassment for years, but did little to stop it.

Russell Dickerson III says while other kids in junior high were worried about tests and homework, he feared vulgar names and food students hurled at him.  He says the only administrator who tried to help him was ignored by the principal. 

“It was like a prison sentence that carried on into high school,” says Dickerson.

With red, watery eyes, Dickerson told reporters at a press conference that he lived in daily fear of harassment until he graduated.  He’s now 19 years old.  He says he’s still saddened that administrators didn’t stop students from chastising him for being African-American or passing around a phony photo on their cell phones of him kissing a man.  He says one student even threatened to lynch him on a website. 

His father, Russell Dickerson, Jr., complained to the school board, administrators and helped his son get a no contact order against a bully.  Still, he says no one did anything.

“The damage that has been done to my son is irreparable.  Because the school district did not take seriously the concerns we brought forth,” says Dickerson, Jr.

He says he hopes the federal lawsuit will change the culture of the school district.  The suit also seeks monetary compensation.

Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington will represent Dickerson.  They say the Aberdeen School District violated the federal civil rights act and state anti-discrimination law. 

In a statement, the district superintendent says administrators did in fact discipline students who were confirmed to have bullied Dickerson.  The district says it takes complaints of harassment very seriously.