Last year, Russell Dickerson, III, 20, filed a lawsuit against the Aberdeen School District, charging they did little to stop the racial and anti-gay bullying he endured from 2003-2009, and now the Seattle man has been awarded $100,000 in a settlement with school officials.
Russell said throughout junior high and high school he was taunted with racial epithets, spit on, and mocked. His peers would leave racist notes in his backpack and they even created a website to tease him about being black and suggest he was gay. When three students pushed him to the floor and smashed a raw egg on his head, Russell said only one was punished.
Later, in high school, he said someone posted a fake picture in the locker room of him kissing a man, which caused students to pick on him by pinching and fondling his chest, and he was also ridiculed for his physical appearance. Russell said when he went to the assistant principal about the issue he was told he should change his style of clothing to avoid being teased.
Despite numerous complaints, Russell and his parents say the bullying continued, even after a no-contact order was issued against one of his harassers. In response to Russell’s claims, the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington said Aberdeen school officials failed to do their job.
“Public school officials must be held accountable when they fail to meet their responsibility to act decisively when a student is subjected to harassment by his peers,” Sarah Dunne, ACLU’s legal director, said in a statement.
“This settlement sends a message to school districts statewide to take strong action as soon as they learn that a student is being bullied.”
Speaking on the settlement, Russell said he learned from his parents to never give up.
“You should fight for your rights – you don’t just walk away.”
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.