Kingston Junior High faces claim of discrimination

KINGSTON — The parents of a child in the North Kitsap School District filed a civil rights complaint against the school district in U.S. District Court earlier this month, claiming it discriminated against their child while carrying out disciplinary action.

The child, who was not named because she was a minor, was 13 years old at the time of an incident at Kingston Junior High last year.

According to the lawsuit which was entered Aug. 13, the student, who is African American, was struck by a Caucasian student and, while raising her arms to defend herself, slapped the other girl on the back.

Both students were then sent to the principal’s office. After an exam by a school nurse and a meeting with KJH principal Cindy Simonsen and School Resource Officer David Dile, the African American student was suspended for 15 days.

The complaint alleges that the other student received no punishment.

After the 15-day suspension was served, the student’s parents received a letter from the Superior Court of Washington for Kitsap County Juvenile Department’s Diversion Program.

The letter said the student had been referred to the program for disrupting school activities and directed them to appear before a diversion board in January of 2002.

The parents did not feel their daughter had committed a crime and filed a “discrimination/harassment incident report” with the school district. When their daughter’s case was heard in juvenile court, she was found not guilty and the case was dismissed with prejudice.

The parents, along with the Kitsap Human Rights Network, have now filed a complaint against the district, claiming their daughter was discriminated against because of the color of her skin. They are asking for unspecified damages.

Randal Brown is the plaintiffs’ attorney.

Jerry Hebert, president of the Kitsap Human Rights’ Network, said the organization became involved in the complaint only after becoming frustrated with the school district’s actions.

“The Human Rights Network is not in the business of suing people, and we’re not in the business of opposing the school district,” Hebert said. “That’s why it’s hard for us to find ourselves on the opposite side of legal action.”

Hebert said the network helped the parents try to get an apology from the district, but finally reached the point where legal action became necessary.

“It came to a point where we had no other action,” Hebert said.

The defendants are the North Kitsap Public School District and Superintendent Eugene Medina. The district public relations office said the district has not heard of the suit and will not issue a response until it has.

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