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Catholic school discriminated against white student accused of racism, lawsuit claims

Catholic school discriminated against white student accused of racism, lawsuit claims

Students seen in a high school classroom. | Reuters/Stephane Mahe

A lawsuit is accusing a Catholic school in Missouri of subjecting an 18-year-old student to relentless verbal ridicule after an African American classmate falsely accused her of racism.

Villa Duchesne, a K-12 private school in Frontenac, along with faculty members are listed as defendants in the lawsuit filed in St. Louis County court last week. The complaint relates to the alleged treatment of an unnamed student recognized in the lawsuit as Daughter Doe. 

In the lawsuit, attorneys for the plaintiff’s family allege that the school engaged in an “overt and intentional racial discrimination” against white students and even encouraged and facilitated “race-based aggression against” Doe that was “promulgated by African American fellow students.” 

“[T]hrough the use of coercion, intimidation, and threats,” the lawsuit alleges that faculty and administrators tried to force Doe to “adopt or espouse the political philosophies of Critical Race Theory.”

The girl’s lawyer, Mark McCloskey, told The Christian Post that Doe was accused in October by an African American student [identified as A.S.] of standing up and saying in a class session on social justice work that “black lives don’t matter.”

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McCloskey contends that the class was recorded on Zoom and the girl never said that phrase. According to the lawsuit, teacher Theresa Wiss watched the classroom the entire time.

“In the real world, this class was recorded,” McCloskey said. “The recording shows that the alleged statement was never made. The teacher who was there knows that the statement was never made, but nonetheless, on Oct. 13 called my client to the principal’s office.”

After A.S.'s accusation, the lawsuit states that Doe's house was vandalized and that she was threatened by her classmates. Additionally, the lawsuit alleges that the student was accused by other students of being a “racist” and a “Trump supporter.” 

The lawsuit states that in the Oct. 13 meeting, Principal Jeannie Steenberge and Wiss let A.S. shout at Doe and point a finger in her face.

A.S. allegedly called Doe a liar and denied that she had ever made statements about her. 

The lawsuit contends that A.S. contradicted herself and later admitted she had told people the girl had said: “black lives do not matter.” 

The African American student also said Doe was a “racist,” was “the biggest known racist in the school,” was “in love with Trump” and “everyone knows that all Trump supporters are racist.”

That legal filing claims that Wiss told Doe she should expect to be treated as a racist because of a pro-police Thin Blue Line sticker she put on her laptop. Wiss misidentified it as a Blue Lives Matter sticker.

“You need to realize that having a Blue Lives Matter flag is racist and that it was made to crush the BLM movement,” said Wiss, according to the lawsuit. “Simply having that sticker, you should expect to be treated like a racist.”

The Thin Blue Line has been a symbol of the sacrifice and service of police since long before Black Lives Matter began. However, combining the symbol with the American flag in support of police only began in 2014. 

School leaders Steenberge, Dean of Student Excellence Mesho Morrow and Dean Emily Kaplan called Doe back to another meeting on Oct. 23. 

They didn’t allow her to bring her cell phone into the room. McCloskey contends that Morrow told Doe during the meeting to lie about her experience and to say that she was no longer concerned about the bullying, vandalism and threats she had received from other students. 

Morrow, an African American who is allegedly a supporter of the Black Lives Movement, is alleged to have tried to convince Doe to state that it is her father who had put her up to cause trouble.

“As my client continued to refuse to agree with these falsehoods, the Dean of Student Excellence kept getting louder and louder and louder and doing these karate-chopping motions with her hands toward my client’s face,” McCloskey argues. “That same meeting the Principal Steenberge told our client, ‘We’re all racists, we’re white.’”

Doe asked to leave and the staff wouldn’t let her, according to the lawsuit. The student also allegedly asked to call her parents and a lawyer but the teachers again would not let her.

The lawsuit accuses Kaplan of typing notes on the meeting. However, Kaplan contends that she was not making a transcript of the discussion but working on another matter. 

Before and after both meetings, A.S. continued to threaten Doe, according to the court filing. 

The student was alleged to have said that she would “throw hands on this b****” and that “I’m sick of that racist b**** — we need to end her.” 

“I know that the African American student involved has publicly said, and I think directly to my client, that she can do whatever she wants and won’t be punished because she’s black,” McCloskey alleged to CP. “I think that has been an ongoing situation at the school. On Oct. 23, [Morrow] told my client that the African American girl would not be punished for anything.”

Villa Duchesne’s school policy considers lying, bigotry and internet abuse serious violations of community standards, said McCloskey, who accused the African American student of making a false claim based on racial hatred. 

“Why is the school being so reluctant to admit that the African American student is a liar and why are they continuing to try and intimidate or force my client into agreeing with Critical Race Theory and apologize for something that didn’t happen?” he asked. “That’s why amongst other things this lawsuit got filed. My client continues to this day to get harassed about it.”

Teachers at Villa Duchesne often display shirts, posters and web posts that support Black Lives Matter, the attorney continued. 

"The Black Lives Matter Movement is about as anti-Catholic a movement as you could possibly imagine," McCloskey asserted.

Doe has been socially ostracized and threatened online, McCloskey stressed. A private Facebook page for school alumni have made insulting and defamatory content about her, he added.

Officials from Villa Duchesne have yet to respond to The Christian Post’s request for comment on the lawsuit. 

But a spokesperson for the school told St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the school will not address the matter publicly. 

A wave of cases like Doe’s steals justice from many students across the country, McCloskey. warned. 

Another St. Louis Catholic school attempted to include a provision in its rulebook that would allow students to be punished for unintentionally offending others with a "microaggression," the lawyer warned. 

“There seems to have been this invisible hand that has walked across the country this year, causing many of the Catholic schools and all the public schools, I think, to adopt an active program of trying to create or adopt Critical Race Theory,” he said. “All this is of very recent origin and it’s not isolated to a single school.”

McCloskey, who mostly handles injury cases and occasional civil rights cases, said that a week ago, he was settling a lawsuit about police brutality for an African American man. McCloskey and his wife also made headlines last July when they were seen brandishing guns outside their home when Black Lives Matter protesters marched by.

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