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Three Black band members from Waukee, Iowa were told to sit in the back of the bus after a White parent volunteer allegedly instigated an altercation with them, according to a lawsuit filed by one of the former students.
In September 2021, the Northwest High School students were attending an awards ceremony for a marching band competition when they decided to head to the bus early with a couple White students.
In the lawsuit, then-high school senior Bailey Hilson claims one of the White parent volunteers expressed outrage that she and her friends left the ceremony early and accused them of being “disgraceful to their teammates,” according to Iowa Capitol Dispatch.
Despite having permission from the band director to head to the bus, the White parent dismissed the White students and began berating the remaining Black students, who were members of the band’s color guard.
When one of the Black students attempted to leave the conversation to contact the band director, a White parent grabbed his arm, the lawsuit claims. When Bailey Hilson stepped in to defend her friend, she claims the parent “responded by ‘getting in the face’ of Hilson and thumped her forehead with her finger, according to Jerry Foxhoven, an attorney representing Hilson in the lawsuit.
Black student files lawsuit after being forced to sit in back of the bus
The parent allegedly admitted to waving her finger in the student’s face, and the band director intervened. But when the students asked to be removed from the bus since the White parents were still on it, the lawsuit claims their request was denied.
“This mature and reasonable request was denied, and the three Black students were instructed to ‘sit in the back of the bus’ and not interact with the adults on the way home,” Foxhoven wrote. “This direction … created a pathetic scene reminiscent of our nation’s history of segregation in public transportation. The students, left with no other choice, followed instructions.”
A White student who was on the bus allegedly called the parent volunteer a “racist bigot,” the lawsuit states.
News of the lawsuit comes days after the 67th anniversary of Rosa Parks’ famous refusal to give up her seat for a White man during the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott. The incident launched the modern Civil Rights Movement, but according to Hilson’s lawsuit, Black Americans continue to face age-old discrimination.
While the district conducted its own investigation into the incident, the lawsuit claims it was too focused on the students’ behavior and ignored the racial components.
Waukee Community School District faces racial discrimination lawsuit
According to Foxhoven, the White parent volunteer was later volunteering at the high school and at least one home football game. Yet a spokesperson for the school district went on to deny the allegations in the lawsuit.
Hilson filed the lawsuit in November after registering a complaint against Waukee Community School District with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission in July.
The lawsuit names the school district, Superintendent Brad Buck and former Principal Fairouz Bishara-Rantisi as defendants.
Hilson is seeking an unspecified amount of money to compensate for her suffering and emotional distress, “causing her to miss school, struggle with depression and feel isolated and unsupported at school, causing her to miss the true joy normally experienced by a student in their senior year of high school,” the lawsuit states.
The Black Wall Street Times has reached out to Waukee Community School District for comment.