United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Dennis A. Verrett, Jr., individually and as parent and next friend of T.S.V. Plaintiffs,
Independent School District #625, Defendant.
Patrick B. Moore, Esq. and Joslin & Moore Law Offices,
PA, and Gary W. Strootman, Esq. counsel for plaintiff.
E. Bushnell, Esq. and Arthur, Chapman, Kettering, Smetak
& Pikala, PA, and Colin Seaborg, Esq. and Bassford
Remele, counsel for defendant.
S. Doty, Judge
matter is before the court upon the motion to dismiss by
Independent School District #625. Based on a review of the
file, record, and proceedings herein, and for the following
reasons, the motion is granted in part.
discrimination dispute arises out of a June 8, 2017, incident
at the Expo Elementary School for Excellence (Expo) in St.
Paul, Minnesota. Compl. ¶¶ 9, 13.
Dennis A. Verrett, Jr. is the father of plaintiff T.S.V.
Id. ¶ 9. On June 8, 2017, T.S.V., who is
African-American, was a fifth-grader at Expo. Id.
¶ 13. Defendant Independent School District #625 (the
District) operates Expo. Id. ¶ 3.
The June 8, Incident
8, T.S.V. was one of three African-American students siting
together in science class. Id. ¶ 15. At some
point during the class instruction, the other two
African-American students began socializing, disrupting the
class. Id. The science teacher was unable to get the
two students' attention. Id. Ex. A at V ¶
9. The science teacher then “brought up” the
educational achievement gap between white and
African-American students. Id. ¶ 14. The
teacher gestured with his hands to a group of white students
and then to the group of African-American students to
demonstrate the gap. Id. Ex. A at V ¶ 10. The
teacher stated that the two African-American students'
behavior was the cause of the achievement gap. Id.
left the classroom crying. Id. ¶ 17. An unknown
teacher noticed T.S.V. in the hallway, and escorted her to
the assistant principal's office. Id. The
assistant principal knew T.S.V. and invited T.S.V. into her
office to calm the child down. Id. Ex. A at V ¶
office, T.S.V. explained what the science teacher said.
Id. T.S.V. mentioned the other students involved,
and those students were called to the assistant
principal's office to give their versions of the
incident. Id. The science teacher also came to the
office and explained his version of the events. Id.
The science teacher allegedly told T.S.V. that “he did
not mean to say that.” Id. Ex. A at V ¶
assistant principal subsequently showed T.S.V. online data
and statistics regarding the existence of the achievement
gap. Id. ¶ 17. The assistant principal directed
T.S.V. to complete a behavioral reflection form, which is
used at Expo to help students reflect on their behavior and
articulate what they should do in the future if they
encounter a similar situation. Id. ¶ 18. T.S.V.
stated in the form that she felt hurt, confused, and
frustrated by the science teacher's comment and that the
incident was “really upsetting.” Id. Ex.
B. She also stated that a better thing to do in the future
“is to tell my teacher or not even listen.”
Id. T.S.V. then returned to class. Id. Ex.
A at V ¶ 21.
same day, Verrett volunteered for his other child's, also
an Expo student, class field trip. Id. ¶ 21.
During the field trip, Verrett learned about the incident
from another parent. Id. After the field trip,
Verrett went back to Expo to find out what happened.
encountered the assistant principal in the Expo parking lot.
Id. ¶ 22. Verrett told her that he was
displeased that Expo had not notified him about the incident.
Id. The assistant principal answered a few of
Verrett's questions, and told him that Expo would
investigate the incident, but said that she could not share
all the details at that time due to human resource
constraints. Id. Ex. A. at V ¶ 31. The
assistant principal then abruptly left to visit a family
member in the hospital. Id. Ex. A. at V ¶ 36.
9, 2017, Expo officials told Verrett and his wife,
T.S.V.'s mother, that they would continue their
investigation. Id. Ex. A. at V ¶ 37. In
mid-June 2017, the Expo principal left Verrett a detailed
voicemail ensuring him that similar incidents would not occur
at Expo in the future. Id. Ex. A. at V ¶ 39.
Verrett also spoke with the assistant superintendent of the
District, who assured Verrett that Expo would follow proper
procedures and conduct a proper investigation. Id.
Ex. A. at V ¶ 38. The assistant superintendent told
Verrett he could not disclose exactly what disciplinary
actions would be taken. Id. On June 19, 2017, Expo
officials privately met with the science teacher, but whether
disciplinary action was taken against either the science
teacher or assistant principal is not known. Id. Ex.
A. at V ¶ 40.
22, 2017, Verrett's wife asked Expo for an update.
Id. Ex. A. at V ¶ 41. The following day, the
principal told her that he was unable to share any updates
because the investigation was confidential, but he assured
her that he would train his staff to better handle comparable
situations in the future. Id. Ex. A. at V ¶ 42.
3, 2017, Verrett's wife proposed the following
resolution: (1) the science teacher formally apologize to
T.S.V. and her parents; (2) Expo reaffirm its commitment to a
positive learning environment free of discrimination; (3)
Expo reaffirm best practices including parent notifications;
and (4) the science teacher apologize to the parents of the
other students in the class. Id. Ex. A. at V ¶
44. Expo did not agree to the proposal. Id.
6, 2019, the principal told Verrett's wife that the
school would adapt the way in which it notifies parents.
Id. Ex. A. at V ¶ 45. Later that day,
Verrett's wife told the principal that she did not feel
Expo had resolved the incident or accepted responsibility.
Id. Ex. A. at V ¶ 46. The principal responded
the following day that he intended to address the incident at
the appropriate time, but that Expo staff was not under
contract during the summer. Id. Ex. A. at V ¶
mid-August 2017, Verrett withdrew T.S.V. from Expo and moved
his family approximately an hour away. Id. ¶
25. In the fall of 2017, T.S.V. and her mother met with Expo
officials. Id. At the meeting, the assistant
principal stated that T.S.V. asked to see the online data and
statistics regarding the achievement gap. Id. Ex. A.
at V ¶ 51. T.S.V.'s mother became upset and briefly
left the meeting. Id. Ex. A. at V ¶ 52. The
science teacher gave T.S.V. candy and a card as an apology,
but did not write anything in the card because he reported
that he did not have time to do so. Id. Ex. A. at V