Students at a high school in Red Wing, Minnesota brought school spirit to new lows with a “Wigger Wednesday” dress-up day tradition, according to a lawsuit filed against the school district.
Quera Pruitt, a Red Wing high school alumna, is suing the school district and administrators over creating a hostile and racist educational environment.
Here’s what happened: Students during the 2008 and 2009 homecoming celebrations wore “oversized sports jerseys, low-slung pants, baseball bats cocked to the side and ‘doo rags’ on their heads,” according to the suit. About 60 or 70 students took what was supposed to be “tropical day” and turned it into “wigger day,” the suit claims. To the unfamiliar, and as the case points out, the term “wigger” is a derogatory term for a white person who emulates African-American culture.
“‘Wigger Day’ is the same thing as ‘nigger day,’ ” Pruitt’s lawyer, Joshua Williams, told TPM. “That’s what my client feels, and that’s what I feel.”
Williams added that the suit isn’t targeting the students, even though he doesn’t condone the behavior. His complaint is with the administration.
“We believe the school district and the other defendents had a duty to stop this from happening again,” Williams said. “They didn’t address ‘wigger day’ in any kind of meaningful way.”
Indeed, the suit alleges that district officials and teachers were aware of the racist implications of the actions, but it does not claim that the administration actively turned a blind eye. A local report from 2009 claims the students were told to change their clothes immediately, but no other punishment followed. The superintendent at the time, Stan Slessor, said if students participated in a similar prank again, they would be suspended.
In reference to the suit, Red Wing Public Schools Superintendent Karsten Anderson issued the following statement to TPM:
Independent School District #256, Red Wing, Minnesota, 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. The district denies the allegations that it has created a racially hostile environment and looks forward to meeting these allegations in court. Since this concerns pending litigation, the district has no further comment at this time.
Pruitt sank into a depression following the “wigger day” incident, according to the suit, leading her to quit cheerleading, track and student council. Pruitt now lives in Little Rock, Ark., the City Pages reports, and her lawyer says enough time has passed that she now feels comfortable proceeding with legal action.
Read the complaint:
Read more here.
David Taintor is TPM’s News Editor. He contributes to TPM’s Livewire coverage, among other areas. David is from Chanhassen, Minnesota, where, yes, it gets very cold. Reach him at taintor [at] talkingpointsmemo.com