The ACLU of Washington is honoring former Aberdeen High School student Russell Dickerson III on Saturday during its annual Washington Bill of Rights Celebration Dinner in Seattle.
The ACLU sued the Aberdeen School District over claims that Dickerson had been subjected to racial discrimination and harassment throughout junior high and high school. The district settled the lawsuit, giving $100,000 to Dickerson and $35,000 to the ACLU to cover legal fees.
Filed in December 2010 in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, the lawsuit said that the deliberate indifference to ongoing harassment by the school district, which receives federal funds, violated federal law — Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The ACLU also claimed the district’s negligent inaction violated the Washington Law Against Discrimination.
The Youth Activist Award is presented to a person under the age of 22 or a group of young people whose activism exemplifies work to defend and extend liberty and justice for all.
The ACLU says that Dickerson was often called names by students, who also tripped him in the hallways and threw food at him in the cafeteria. He says that in 2007 students in the district created a website mocking him and posted threatening and racist comments. His parents first complained to the district in 2004 when Dickerson was in junior high.
The ACLU says the settlement Dickerson received “sends a message to school officials statewide that they need to take strong action as soon as they learn that a student is being bullied.”