The lawsuit alleges that Kenya Williams Jr., an African American, was subjected to an “increasingly hostile and harassing environment.”
Kenya Williams Jr., a former student and football player at Lenape High School, is suing the Lenape Regional High School District for $1 million in damages for racial discrimination and bias Williams and his family claim Williams faced while a student at Lenape.
The civil rights lawsuit alleges Williams, an African American, and other African American members of the Lenape High School football team, were subjected to an “increasingly hostile and harassing environment” at Lenape where “taunts of a racial derogatory tone” were used against them.
The lawsuit claims Caucasian students openly called Williams and other African American students “n word” yet when the complaints were brought to the attention of the school and Lenape Athletics Department, the lawsuit claims the actions of the Caucasian students were “condoned.”
The lawsuit claims one example of the alleged racism took place on Oct. 13, 2015, when Caucasian players allegedly called several African American members of the football team “grease monkeys.”
When the African American players complained to school officials, the lawsuit alleges they were told to “handle the situation themselves.”
According to the lawsuit, Caucasian teammates allegedly taunted Williams with the name “snitch Kenya” when the Williams family spoke to another school administrator.
The lawsuit also states that while school officials eventually took some disciplinary action after the incident, the district “failed to acknowledge the glaring racial implication” behind the behavior of Williams’ harassers.
Officials with the district say they cannot make any further comment on pending litigation, but note the LRHSD BOE is dedicated to providing “a progressive education and extracurricular opportunities in a safe, secure environment.”
According to the lawsuit, Williams was also subjected to additional alleged harassment, including an incident where he found his clothes in a trash can after they went missing from his locker, and he was told by another player that his locker had be given to a younger Caucasian student.
An additional incident cited in the lawsuit allegedly took place on Nov. 10, 2015, when the lawsuit says Williams was given an in-school suspension for “talking back to a teacher after having his phone taken away.”
The lawsuit claims a Caucasian female student spoke in defense of Williams and was told to “shut up, sit down and mind your own business,” yet an African American student who supported the female’s comments was sent to the office to receive a detention.
According to the lawsuit, when the parents decided to schedule a meeting with school principal Tony Cattani related to the incident, the principal allegedly accused Williams’ father of “intimidating him just by looking at him” and called the Medford police to monitor the meeting in what the lawsuit alleges was a tactic to intimidate Williams’ parents.
The lawsuit also alleges that “callous, discriminatory behavior” toward Williams continued into the following year, including but not limited to when Williams was denied playing time on the field stemming from his complaints.
According to the lawsuit, Williams’ complaints of racial harassment also allegedly factored into him not receiving a varsity letter on Dec. 12, 2016, at the Lenape Football Banquet.
The lawsuit claims Williams, a running back, received a varsity letter the year prior and had played in multiple varsity games in 2016, even scoring a touchdown, while other players who had not played in a single varsity game the entire year were awarded a varsity letter over Williams.
The Williams’ family lawsuit also lists Superintendent Carol Birnbohm, Cattani and former athletic director Tim Walsh as defendants as well.