On May 1, 2023, a settlement was approved under which Middlesex Borough (Middlesex County, NJ) Board of Education consented to a $200,000 settlement with two high school students. The students had filed a lawsuit claiming that they had been subjected to racial slurs by other students and that district officials displayed a “deliberate indifference to student-on-student racial harassment.”
In their lawsuit, the female students, who are identified only be their initials D.I. and K.M., said that in both Von E. Mauger Middle School and Middlesex High School, they were repeatedly called racial slurs by Caucasian students. K.M. said that other students also taunted her about her hairstyle and single-parent household.
Both girls claimed that school administrators and staff condoned this behavior. D.I. said that two separate teachers told her to “keep her head down” and “walk away” during the taunts.
Both students claimed that their specific incidents were part of a much larger pattern of “racism [that] has permeated the [Middlesex school district] for years.” They said that although Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying training is mandated, teachers and staff members routinely fail to complete the training without consequence. The lawsuit, which contains 291 numbered paragraphs, contains more context and details.
Of the $200,000, D.I. received $85,000, K.M. received $70,000 and their lawyer received $45,000. Since the two girls are still minors, their shares are being held by the County Surrogate’s office.
The case is captioned D.I. and K.M. v. Middlesex Borough Board of Education, Federal Case No. 2:22-cv-01248 and the students and their parents were represented by Norman R. Jimerson, Jr. of Clifton. The civil lawsuit and settlement order are in a combined PDF file on-line here.
None of the girls’ allegations have been proven or disproven in court. Settlements typically states that payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by the Middlesex school district or any of its employees or officials. All that is known for sure is that the school district or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay the girls $200,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants’ decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial–it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.