Roseville schools settle race discrimination lawsuits

15 April 2022

Roseville public schools has settled the second of two federal lawsuits accusing the district and a second-grade teacher of discriminating against Black students.

Terms of the settlement announced this week and another case involving former Harambee Elementary teacher Geraldine Cook resolved in January were not released, court records show.

The suits allege that Cook made a group of Black students sit together in one part of the classroom and that she referred to them as “troublemakers” and treated them more harshly, one of the suits said.

A mother became concerned in September 2019 when Cook told her she was struggling with that “particular group of students” while gesturing toward the Black students, the suit says.

The mother told the principal she felt Cook was “unstable and presented a risk to the students in her class,” but the school took no action, the suit said.

About a month later, the mother got a voice mail from Cook, who asked if she “allows him to misbehave at home.”

Around the same time, Cook allegedly got angry with the mother’s son for gargling water and grabbed him by the throat. Cook marched the boy to the principal’s office “while forcing him to hold his hands behind his back like a criminal defendant,” the suit reads.

The principal told the student not to tell his mother about the incident, the suit said.

Other students said Cook grabbed a girl by the arm and ripped her shirt. Another student told the principal that Cook assaulted him and that she pushed, shoved, grabbed and smooshed the faces of African American students in the class. That student told the principal that Cook “doesn’t like Black students,” the suit said.

The mother has since moved her son to a different school.

In the suit, the mother’s attorney wrote that “the District knew or should have known that Cook presented a risk of harm to her students. Despite this knowledge, the District was negligent in its supervision of Cook, thereby exposing [the boy] and students to a significant risk of harm.”

Cook, now 58, resigned in December 2019. She could not immediately be reached for comment.

“Roseville Area Schools is pleased the parties were able to resolve this matter,” the district said in a statement. “The school district looks forward to serving its families and continuing in its mission to provide quality teaching and learning with equity in all we do.”

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