Posted at 07:19 AM ET, 08/12/2011

Minnesota school system sued over ‘Wangsta Day’


An image from the Red Wing Public Schools Web page. (Red Wing Public Schools)
This post has been updated with a statement from a Red Wing student council member. It was originally published Aug. 4.

A Minnesota school system has been sued by a former student claiming “Wangsta Days” were racially offensive and caused harm to her and others.

Quera Pruitt, a black student at Red Wing High School from 2008-2010, alleges that 60 to 70 students transformed one of the 2009 “Dress Up Days” planned by the student council, “Tropical Day,” into “Wigger Day” or “Wangsta Day.”

“Wigger” is a combination of the words “white” and the N-word. It’s a term used to describe a white person who emulates what they believe to be black culture. “Wangsta” has the same far-reaching meaning, but at Red Wing it also meant “Winger Gangta,” according to the suit.

Students allegedly wore “oversized sports jerseys, low-slung pants” and “‘doo rags’ on their heads” as costumes. Red Wing’s principal, Beth M. Borgen, was aware of the event and officials knew about similar occurrences at the school in years past, according to the suit.

The incident caused Pruitt to suffer from “extreme emotional distress” and depression, according to the suit, which led her to drop out of extracurriculars such as track. She’s asking for $75,000 in damages and legal fees.

In an official statement, Superintendent Karsten Anderson, who along with Borgen is named as a co-defendant, said the district “denies the allegations that it has created a racially hostile environment and looks forward to meeting these allegations in court.”

The school “has been and continues to be committed to providing an education to its students that is free from discrimination and harassment based upon race or otherwise.”

Alex Streff, a student council member and rising senior at Red Wing, said in a statement that he agrees that the actions of students who participated in the day were “unacceptable and quite offensive.” However, Streff is asking Pruitt to drop the suit.

“Shortly after the fallout of the day began, Dr. Borgen spoke with all of the student council officers about the issue and asked for our help,” Streff said. “I can assure you that the administration has done everything in their power since that day to ensure that our school is a safe environment for all.”

Streff said the administration made it clear a second such day would lead to severe punishment and have successfully prevented another occurrence from happening. “While their actions to prevent that day may have lacked, their leadership during and following that infamous Wednesday impressed me,” he said.

He has started the Facebook group “We Stand With Red Wing Schools in Court” to show his solidarity with the school. Streff’s entire statement can be read here.

Pruitt and another black student gave an interview about “Wangsta Day” to TV station KARE about a month after it happened in 2009. It was characterized as a “prank” that “went too far” in the story.

Then-Superintendent Stan Slessor told KARE that he was disappointed by the students’ action, and that they were required to change clothes, though they weren’t punished. He said repeat offenders would be suspended.

By  |  07:19 AM ET, 08/12/2011

 
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