SOUTHWICK — The mother of a Black student who says she has endured racial epithets and abuse from fellow students at Southwick Regional School has filed a federal civil rights complaint against the school district.

Allyson Lopez believes district administrators have not done enough to address the racial bullying of her daughter, and is asking the U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Office to investigate the Southwick-Tolland-Granville Regional School District and order it to take several immediate steps to address the allegations.

The lawsuit, written by Tasheensa Davis, a litigation fellow at Lawyers for Civil Rights, includes details of the racial incidents involving Lopez’s daughter. These include the mock “slave auction” on social media for which Lopez publicly called out the school district in February, but also several other incidents earlier in the year.

The first occurred in November, only three months after Lopez’s daughter began attending Southwick Regional School. A white student allegedly used the N-word to refer to the daughter, but referred to it as a “slip” and Lopez’s daughter did not report it to administrators.

She did report the second time she was called that word, by a white student holding a classroom door open for her later in December. Another student also heard the racial slur and confirmed it to administrators. Lopez said a school administrator told her the district has a “zero-tolerance” policy for racial bullying, and that the white students’ parents would be informed.

After another incident where a classmate said the N-word in her daughter’s presence, Lopez requested that the district act immediately to address what she believed had become a “toxic and racist environment” in the school, according to the lawsuit. She described the administration’s response to these incidents, and yet another in January, as “anemic, weak, and ineffective — to the degree there was no response at all,” according to the lawsuit.

The district did develop a “safety plan” for Lopez’s daughter, which “singled her out” by treating her differently from other students, and had her enter school through a different door each day, according to the lawsuit. That “further alienated, isolated, and marked her,” according to the lawsuit.

And then on Feb. 8-9, at least six students, using the Snapchat app, conducted the mock slave auction and bid on Lopez’s daughter and another Black student.

Six of the students involved in the auction were charged by Hampden County District Attorney Anthony Gulluni. Of the six, one was charged with interference with civil rights, threatening to commit a crime, and witness interference; one was charged with interference with civil rights and threatening to commit a crime; and four others have each been charged with threatening to commit a crime. Because all six are minors, their names are not being made public.

Two of those students were suspended from school for 25 days, and another for 45 days.

The lawsuit charges that neither Willard nor any other district administrator has taken any “meaningful corrective action to address the abhorrent behavior of the students besides one unavailing school assembly.”

Willard said in an email statement to Reminder Publishing that “the Southwick-Tolland-Granville Regional School District will review the complaint filed with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) and work with legal counsel and the OCR to address the complaint.”

Racist graffiti found

Two days after Lopez filed her complaint, the district revealed to parents that another “incident” of racism had occurred. Willard sent an email to parents noting that graffiti “including discriminatory language” was found May 1 in a bathroom used by eighth grade students at SRS.

Willard wrote that the school closed the bathroom “and began an investigation and informed our local police.” Asked to comment further, Willard told Reminder Publishing that “the matter was investigated and addressed.”

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