A Las Vegas public charter school and the state’s charter school system are awaiting a ruling on their motion to dismiss a lawsuit that alleges a student’s First Amendment rights were violated during class assignments focused on topics such as privilege and oppression.
Gabrielle Clark and her son, William, filed a lawsuit in December in U.S. District Court against Democracy Prep, a national network of campuses that includes Democracy Prep at the Agassi Campus, and the Nevada State Public Charter School Authority.
The Clarks are seeking a jury trial and damages. Democracy Prep and the charter authority each filed a motion to dismiss on June 3.
The lawsuit — which has garnered national attention amid accusations that schools are teaching “critical race theory” to young students — seeks damages for teachers allegedly “repeatedly compelling” William to speak and write about “intimate matters of race, gender, sexuality and religion.”
The allegations stem from class exercises and homework assignments in a “Sociology of Change” class, which is required for high school seniors at Democracy Prep at the Agassi Campus.
Gabrielle told school officials in an October 2020 email that her son wouldn’t participate in “any type of Critical Race Theory class.” School officials had previously told her the class didn’t have anything to do with critical race theory — a controversial academic concept that draws a line from slavery and segregation to contemporary inequities and argues that racism remains embedded in laws and institutions.
‘We remain confident’
William was threatened with a failing grade and the potential of not graduating, according to the lawsuit.
Daniel Suhr, an attorney who represents the Clarks, said in a written statement to the Review-Journal: “The judge has already indicated in open court that the Clarks have strong First Amendment claims against Democracy Prep. We remain confident in our case and expect the judge’s next ruling to again confirm that the school’s racially charged curriculum violated William’s rights.”
An attorney for Democracy Prep declined to comment Monday beyond the motion to dismiss. An attorney for the Nevada State Public Charter School Authority said the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
In its motion to dismiss, Democracy Prep says William — who was a high school senior at the time the lawsuit was filed — “criticized an assignment that asked him to name his individual identities on a private form as part of ‘an independent reflection exercise,’ which he argued unlawfully compelled his speech.”
Records during the discovery process disprove William’s claim, according to the motion to dismiss.
“He could have written that he disagreed with the premise of the independent reflection exercise and would have received full credit,” the motion alleges.
William received a failing grade in the class because “he stopped attending or doing his classwork — not out of any supposed retaliation,” according to the motion.
At the time the lawsuit was filed last year, William had attended Democracy Prep at the Agassi for six years and wanted to attend college to study music, according to the complaint.
Court documents identify his mother Gabrielle as a Black woman and his father, who is deceased, as a white man.
‘Blatantly justifying racism’
In a September 2020 email to school officials, Gabrielle wrote: “My son is the only white student in this class, as far as we can tell. This teacher is blatantly justifying racism against white people (and) thereby putting my son in emotional, psychological, and physical danger. This is not OK. Something needs to be done to remedy this situation immediately,” according to the lawsuit.
The complaint alleges that by directing William to “reveal his identities,” the school was “coercing him to accept and affirm politicized and discriminatory principles and statements that he cannot in conscience affirm.”
The lawsuit also alleges William was directed in the “Sociology of Change” class to “unlearn” the Judeo-Christian principles Gabrielle had taught him.
Online court records don’t show any upcoming hearings in the case.
Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2921. Follow @julieswootton on Twitter.