Michelle Obama’s brother and his wife, Craig and Kelly Robinson, are suing the private school their children attended, claiming their sons were kicked out in retaliation for their complaints about racial bias at the academy.
The Robinsons brought the action against the University School of Milwaukee on Monday, claiming their two young sons were expelled last year after the parents raised concerns about bias in the curriculum and mistreatment of students of color, they said during an interview with on Tuesday.
They are seeking financial compensation from the school, which charges about $24,000 a year for tuition, but say they will donate any monetary award to initiatives for diversity, equity and inclusion in schools.
‘As [with] a lot of the parents, we heard what was going on in the classroom because of COVID,’ Craig Robinson said during the interview with GMA, ‘and there were repeated use of racial and ethnic stereotypes that were in actual assignments.’
‘The use of the word “plantation” and things of that nature,’ Robinson said. ‘In addition to the racial and ethnic stereotypes, there was an insensitivity to socioeconomic status and as well as a disregard for the children who weren’t physically in the classroom.’
According to the complaint, the Robinson’s sons started junior kindergarten and first grade at the private school in 2016 and attended until the school dismissed them in spring 2021, when they were 9 and 11 years old.
The Robinsons said they first noticed issues with the curriculum during the pandemic, and brought their concerns to the staff in November of 2020.
They first noted worksheets and projects that were offensive to people of color, people with disabilities, indigenous people and other minority groups.
Then in January and March of 2021, Kelly Robinson submitted two separate bias reports to the school regarding the classwork her sons were completing that had ‘socioeconomic insensitivities.’ While the school acknowledged her reports, nothing changed, Robinson said.
The Robinsons then learned that other families were also dealing with the school’s inaction in response to instances of racial discrimination against students.
‘Just as recent as 10 years ago, the University School of Milwaukee had in their fourth-grade curriculum that students re-enacted the Underground Railroad, and students dressed up as slaves and ran through the school in the dark, and the teachers were actually the slave masters who captured these students,’ Kelly Robinson said on GMA.
‘One of the other stories that we heard was about how the black students seem to get more harsh punishments than their white counterparts,’ she added.
Her husband added that they are filing the lawsuit to hold the school accountable not just for their children, but to help the greater community and hopefully prevent similar retaliation in the future.
The school claims the Robinson children were expelled because the family did not fulfill the ‘foregoing commitments as a partner to USM and its Middle School teachers and administrators.’
Head of the school, Steve Hancock, told GMA they had not yet been served with the complaint and did not have time to review it.
‘We are not in [a] position to comment on this pending legal matter at this time,’ Hancock said in a statement to GMA.
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