Thomas v. Puyallup School District

Case type: Civil rights, discrimination, harassment, hostile environment
Award: $7.5 million Settlement
Attorneys: Jack Connelly

Case Summary

This case dealt with over two decades of racial discrimination against African American students in the Puyallup School District, with 36 current and former students and 23 parents as the plaintiffs. Plffs contend that African American students, constituting %4 of the student body, were subjected to racial slurs, racist and threatening graffiti and harassment from both students and teachers.

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Case Details

When complaints were made, Plffs contend that school officials responded in one of two ways: 1) denial that racism existed within Puyallup schools because “no one else is complaining about it”, or 2) convincing parents of African American students that their child’s behavior was the sole cause of their problems.

Evidence of a racially hostile environment was overwhelming, documenting frequent incidences of racial slurs, graffiti, jokes, caricatures, threats and actual violence against African American students. Racial stereotyping and unfair treatment by faculty and administrators, discouragement from participation in extracurricular activities and several tests and homework assignments that included the “N-word” characterized the damaging level of racial discrimination taking place in the Puyallup School District.