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Michelle Obama’s brother and wife sue Milwaukee school over racial bias

Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s brother and wife are suing a private school in Milwaukee, alleging it refused to allow their two sons to re-enroll after expressing concern that racism and inappropriate conduct at school had not been dealt with satisfactorily.

In a civil lawsuit filed in Milwaukee County Circuit Court, Craig and Kelly Robinson accuse Milwaukee University School of terminating their 9- and 11-year-old sons’ re-enrollment contracts for the 2021-2022 school year after the couple complained that teachers treated students of color and socioeconomically underrepresented students unfairly.

According to the lawsuit filed Monday, the school failed to provide the supportive and inclusive learning environment it promised in its enrollment contracts with the Robinsons. The boys had attended K-12 school for about five years, the Robinsons said Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and a jury trial.

USM said in a statement that the listing decision had nothing to do with their claims of unfairness or discrimination. The independent school, with a campus that stretches from Milwaukee to the nearby suburb of River Hills, enrolls approximately 1,100 students each year.

The Robinsons allege that their children’s conduct indicated a broader pattern of USM insensitivity toward students and socioeconomically underrepresented students of color for years.

Craig Robinson said the boys had been straight students at school and never had any issues.

“We raised issues and our children were kicked out,” he said.

The school did not address racial epithets and other inappropriate behavior on campus, the Robinsons said, without providing details.

The Robinsons said that when the boys were learning practically at home because of the pandemic, they became aware that racial and ethnic stereotypes were showing up in the homework.

It gave parents a “big picture view of learning,” Kelly Robinson said.

“We were in partnership with the school and we shared our concerns, how the school could be better with the curriculum, communicating with families and eliminating bias,” she said.

In a letter of dismissal to the Robinsons, USM principal Steve Hancock told the couple that they had “repeatedly engaged in disrespectful and demanding communications with and about our teachers and administrators.” .

In an April email, Hancock wrote that “despite our continued efforts and requests, you continue to engage directly with USM fifth-grade teachers and administrators in a way that is not consistent with the school’s shared trust and core values ​​- including through numerous disrespectful and deflating emails, texts, and conversations.”

The Robinson boys were in fifth and third grade at the time.

It “has only become more apparent that there has been a complete collapse of your family’s trust and respect for USM,” Hancock wrote.

The boys were “traumatized” by the loss of their relationships and friendships at USM, the only school they ever attended, but now find themselves in a thriving and supportive environment, Kelly Robinson said.

Hancock released a statement Tuesday afternoon, but declined to take calls about the lawsuit.

“We value the privacy and confidentiality of members of our community and cannot comment on the details of cases involving imminent or pending litigation. However, we can tell you that the listing decisions of USM had nothing to do with claims of unfairness or discrimination and we intend to vigorously defend the school against any claims to the contrary. We cannot and will not tolerate behavior that is consistently disrespectful, intimidating or harassing our dedicated and hardworking teachers and administrators, he said in part.

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