Former first lady Michelle Obama’s brother and his wife are suing a private Milwaukee school, alleging that it refused to let their two sons re-enroll after they raised concerns about racism and inappropriate behaviour at the school.
Craig and Kelly Robinson accuse University School of Milwaukee of terminating their nine- and 11-year-old sons’ re-enrollment contracts for the 2021-2022 school year after the couple complained that teachers treated students of colour and socioeconomically underrepresented students unfairly, according to a civil lawsuit filed in Milwaukee County Circuit Court.
According to the lawsuit, the school failed to provide the Robinsons with the supportive and inclusive learning environment promised in their enrollment contracts. The boys had been attending the school from pre-kindergarten through grade 12 for about five years, according to the Robinsons in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday.
The lawsuit asks for unspecified monetary damages as well as a jury trial.
The enrollment decision had nothing to do with their accusations of inequality or discrimination, according to USM. Every year, roughly 1,100 students attend the independent school, which has a campus that runs from Milwaukee to the nearby suburb of River Hills.
The Robinsons claim that their children’s treatment revealed a long-standing pattern of USM insensitivity toward socioeconomically marginalised students and students of colour.
The lads had been straight-A students at the school, according to Craig Robinson, and had never been in trouble. “We raised issues and our kids got kicked out,” he said.
“We were partnering with the school and we shared our concerns, how the school could be better with curriculum, communicating with families and to eliminating biases,” she said.
In a termination letter to the Robinsons, USM Head of School Steve Hancock told the couple they had “repeatedly engaged in disrespectful and demanding communications with and about our teachers and administrators.”
In an April email, Hancock wrote that “despite our continued efforts and requests, you continue to directly engage with USM’s fifth grade teachers and administrators in a manner that is not consistent with the school’s Common Trust and Core Values — including via numerous emails, texts, and conversations that are disrespectful and deflating.”
The Robinson boys were in the fifth and third grades at the time.
It “has only become more evident that there has been a complete breakdown in your family’s trust of and respect for USM,” Hancock wrote. The boys were “traumatised” by the loss of their relationships and friendships at USM, their only school, but Kelly Robinson said they are now in a healthy and supportive environment.
Hancock issued a statement Tuesday afternoon, but said he would not take phone calls about the case. “We regard highly the privacy and confidentiality of our community members and we cannot comment on the specifics of matters involving threatened or pending litigation. However, we can tell you that USM’s enrollment decisions had nothing to do with complaints of inequity or discrimination and we intend to vigorously defend the school against any claim to the contrary. We cannot and will not tolerate persistently disrespectful, bullying, or harassing behavior directed at our devoted and hardworking teachers and administrators,” the statement in part said.