According to claims made by a classroom parent in a federal lawsuit, a former second-grade teacher in Roseville, Minnesota assaulted at least three Black students and enforced racial segregation in her classroom.
She allegedly choked one of the students and forced another to walk with his hands behind his back as if arrested in addition to segregating the class based on race, the Star Tribune reported.
The lawsuit, filed with the U.S. District Court of St. Paul, Minnesota, was brought by Kirsten Lindsey, the parent of the child who was choked.
The suit alleged that Harambee Elementary School teacher Geraldine Cook committed a slew of problematic incidents during the Fall of 2019 until her sudden resignation in December of that year.
As early as September 6, the suit claimed, Lindsey observed inappropriate behavior while volunteering during the school day. She explained that Cook appeared “overwhelmed and erratic, especially when working with or talking about the African-American students.”
According to the document, Cook told Lindsey she had trouble with “a particular group of students.” Cook, who is White, then pointed to a group of Black students, who she’d forced to sit in together in their own area.
When Lindsey raised concerns with Harambee Principal Delon Smith following that incident, nothing was done.
The lawsuit went on to allege further problematic behavior committed by Cook in October as well.
One student, a young Black girl, arrived home with a ripped shirt after Cook grabbed at it. Another student claimed that Cook “doesn’t like black kids” and that she’d put her hands on him and other students.
Cook also choked Lindsey’s seven-year-old son when he gargled water in class.
The suit highlighted that six separate students informed Principal Smith about the incident, who advised the child not to tell his mother. Lindsey did not learn about the event until her son told her after Cook resigned in December.
When Lindsey had her son psychologically evaluated following her discovery of the choking incident and another situation when Cook made her son to walk around “while forcing him to hold his hands behind his back like a criminal defendant.”
That evaluation deemed that Lindsey’s son showed signs of recent trauma. She transferred her son to another school shortly after.
As the lawsuit outlined, these incidents continued despite students’ and parents’ pleas for the school to address it. At a school board meeting in November, Ronald Lindsey, the uncle of Lindsey’s son, raised his concerns.
He asked that the school address the “assault and/or assaults being inflicted by staff upon minor children and the attempted cover up of these documented facts, not allegations.” Cook did not resign until a month later.
Nonetheless, the school district has affirmed its commitment to the safety of its students. A spokesperson told Kare 11:
“The safety and well being of our students is our most important obligation. We take very seriously any allegation of a staff person harming a student or acting in a racist way.”
Regarding the fate of Cook following these discoveries, Maplewood Police Sgt. Joe Steiner assured the Star Tribune that “there was no evidence that a crime occurred.”
Lindsey’s suit only sought unspecified monetary damages.
Folks on social media were outraged. They were angry at the horror of Cook’s behavior and the school’s inadequate response.
I get so sick of these canned statements: “The safety and wellbeing of our students is our most important obligation. We take very seriously any allegation of a staff person harming a student or acting in a racist way”
— Gina F (@GinaStevens84) October 2, 2020
We wish only the calmest, most supportive education experience for all of the victimized students from here on out.