Last month, Craig Robinson — brother of former first lady Michelle Obama — and his wife filed a lawsuit against the University School of Milwaukee (USM), alleging racial bias after their sons were denied continued enrollment, and last week, the educational institution filed a motion to dismiss the claims in their entirety, as NPR reports.
According to Law & Crime, the dispute between the parties emerged after the Robinsons’ two boys – then nine and 11 years old – were declined re-enrollment after their parents began complaining about the manner in which minority students were treated at the school and were portrayed in educational materials used in classes there.
“Rather than address and rectify the unequal treatment of students of color and underrepresented students at USM, the School acted impermissibly to silence and to retaliate against those adversely affected by the School’s unfair treatment of students of color and underrepresented students,” the Robinsons’ legal complaint alleged.
The boys’ parents also claimed that minority students at USM were subjected to harassment and bullying of a racial nature and that school officials did nothing to intervene, stating in their complaint:
Over the past two years, USM was made aware of multiple white students who used racial slurs, acted in a racist manner toward students of color, or who threatened students of color based on their race,” the complaint claimed. “Some students urged others to participate in the same racist behaviors, encouraging them that they could do so without fear of reprisal from USM.
According to the Robinsons, when they raised the above issues as well as concerns about instructional methods and materials used at the school, their sons – whom the complaint characterizes as “model, high-achieving students” – faced retaliation in the form of disenrollment.
The school, however, fired back with a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, contending that the Robinsons have launched a “media campaign intended to tarnish USM’s reputation as one of the nation’s premier independent, college-preparatory schools and arguing that the plaintiff parents have no real interest in securing a legal remedy.
“[The Robinsons] hope to win not in the court of law, but in the court of public opinion – where legal rules, facts, and evidence matter little,” the motion asserts, also stating that while the school denies all allegations of racial bias, even if they were true, the school was not contractually required to admit any student, including the Robinson boys.
Also outlining a pattern of “lengthy, misguided, and often disrespectful emails and text messages” to which school staff were routinely subjected by the Robinsons, USM’s motion deemed the parents’ behavior to be a breach of the “Common Trust and Parent School Partnership” in which enrolled parents agree to participate.
Though it remains to be seen whether the judge will indeed toss the complaint before the matter goes any further, the fact that the Robinsons have established a website entitled “Don’t Trust USM” to get the word out about their case only seems to lend credence to the school’s belief that this lawsuit may be little more than a social justice public relations stunt.