Michelle Obama’s brother is suing the private school their children attended on the grounds of racial bias. In a recent early morning news interview, the former first brother-in-law lifted a social media profile called “Black at USM” to support their claims of bigotry, including a practice of the school where fourth-grade students pretended to be “runaway slaves.”
In an interview with “Good Morning America” on Tuesday, April 19, Craig Robinson and his wife Kelly publicly announced they have filed a lawsuit against the University School of Milwaukee, noting their two sons were expelled from the school after multiple complaints regarding racial bias in the curriculum and the unfair treatment of students of color were brought up to the administration.
The parents say the genesis of the trouble came when they overheard a classroom assignment of one of the boys.
“This all started, as a lot of parents, when we heard what was going on in the classroom because of COVID,” Craig said to “GMA” host Robin Roberts. “There was repeated use of racial and ethnic stereotypes that were in actual assignments. The use of the word ‘plantation’ and things of that nature.”
He continued, “In addition to the racial and ethnic stereotypes there was an insensitivity to socioeconomic status, as well as a disregard for the children who weren’t physically in the classroom.”
The Robinsons approached the school about two separate instances, once in January 2021 and two months later in March.
Despite their good standing at the private school, the claim states both children, a third grader and fifth grader, were given termination letters stating, “the Robinsons had violated the School’s Common Trust and had not fulfilled their commitments as partners with USM.”
The first expulsion was on April 14, 2021 (one month after the last complaint submitted by the parents) and the second was on June 21.
The letter said, “you repeatedly engaged in disrespectful and demanding communication with and about our teachers and administrators.”
It continued, “It has only become more evident that there has been a complete breakdown in your family’s trust of and respect for USM.”
Kelly said this came as a surprise because it seemed the administration was appreciative of being made aware of the racial insensitivities.
According to the lawsuit obtained by the Atlanta Black Star, the Robinson children have attended the school since August 2016, and since being accepted into the school have been “model, high-achieving students.”
The couple’s lawyer, Kimberley Cy. Motley, wrote in the 25-page document filed on Monday, April 18, “USM summarily and unreasonably terminated [The Robinsons’ 11-year-old son] enrollment contract and revoked USM’s offer of [The Robinsons’ 9-year-old son] enrollment contract after the Robinsons raised concerns about USM’s treatment of its students of color and submitted bias incident reports on behalf of underrepresented students.”
The Robinson family believes the school “disregarded the ‘value of inclusion’ embedded in USM’s Mission Statement, failed to recognize and respect the ‘diversity of backgrounds and experience’ of its students of color.”
The lawsuit suggests the family was speaking for others in the community who have felt discriminated against, explaining there has been a systemic failure to protect non-white students.
Kelly said the story “resonated with many families in the community,” further stating that these issues of intolerance have gone back years. In fact, the couple maintains some alums say they were retaliated against also by the school’s administration.
Armed with the testimony of other people of color connected to the school, it was clear to them USM failed to “address racial epithets and other inappropriate conduct on-campus directed at its students of color and underrepresented students, but also affirmatively engaged in inappropriate and racially insensitive practices.”
One example of such practice is “requiring students to participate in an ‘Underground Railroad’ simulation — a simulation in which students of color were told to act like ‘runaway slaves’ while USM faculty acted as ‘slave catchers’ and were told to try to catch the students.”
This school tradition was removed from the school curriculum ten years ago after parents, Black alumni, students and other community stakeholders protested the dramatization and trivializing of this traumatic historical moment in American history.
Motley claims the Robinson children are traumatized by this “Draconian action,” and their parents’ reputation has been “maligned.”
Because USM has breached its “contractual obligations and the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing in the Contractual Documents by unreasonably terminating” the children in what they believe was retaliation for the parents’ critique of the school, the Robinsons are seeking a monetary award of all damages the family may have suffered, the recovery of statutory costs, disbursements, and expenses, including attorneys’ fees; and any other measures of “relief” the court sees fit.