A community college in Kansas is at the center of lawsuits alleging racism : NPR

A Kansas group school president is underneath hearth for evaluating a Black scholar athlete to Hitler. Lawsuits accuse the president of a concerted effort to shrink the Black scholar physique on the college.



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In rural Kansas, lawsuits alleging racial hostility are sending a group school into upheaval. As Frank Morris of member station KCUR reviews, the state of affairs boiled over not too long ago when the president of the school in contrast a Black soccer participant to Hitler.

FRANK MORRIS, BYLINE: Highland, Kan., is a city of 1,000 surrounded by rolling cornfields within the northeast nook of the state – one gasoline station, no stoplights. However the scholar physique at Highland Neighborhood School is numerous because of athletes right here on scholarship like Aiden Moore from Louisville, Ky.

AIDEN MOORE: It was actually my final probability. You recognize, I had curiosity of big-time faculties, however I simply did not have the grades.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: What’s up?

MOORE: What’s up? How’s it going?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Not unhealthy, man.

MORRIS: After class, college students pile into Moore’s dorm room. All of them are Black, all right here to play soccer. However many have simply been reduce from the workforce. KeJuan Carson from Auburn, Ala., says it occurred to him after simply asking permission to skip one apply to complete an English paper.

KEJUAN CARSON: And I assumed all the pieces was cool. However afterward that day, that is when folks began telling me I obtained kicked off the workforce.

MORRIS: B.J. Smith, former Highland ladies’s basketball coach, says sudden extreme punishment for Black athletes began in 2019. That is when Highland employed a brand new president and a brand new athletic director who Smith says instantly laid down the regulation.

B J SMITH: His precise phrases have been, I wanted to recruit extra youngsters the tradition of our group might relate to. I stated, I truthfully do not know what you imply. What are you saying? And he very aggressively stated, you realize precisely what I am saying.

MORRIS: From then on, Smith alleges the varsity has regarded for excuses to punish Black gamers. Smith misplaced his job in 2020 and not too long ago sued the varsity together with two assistant coaches, alleging a sustained assault on Black college students. Highland President Deborah Fox issued an announcement strongly denying the allegations and asserting that nearly half the coed athletes at Highland are Black, similar as when Smith left nearly two years in the past.

Nobody representing the varsity would remark for this story. However Ryan Kuhnert, a 2009 Highland graduate, says the varsity values variety.

RYAN KUHNERT: It was probably the most Black folks I might ever encountered in my life, being from a small farm city. And it was an incredible studying expertise for me.

MORRIS: On the one restaurant on the town, farmer Jerry Blevins says Highland School is simply attempting to strengthen its ties to the group.

JERRY BLEVINS: The explanation why they need Kansas youngsters – it has nothing to do with Black or white. They need native youngsters – so with their dad and mom and household and stuff.

MORRIS: However race relations is a really sensitive topic right here, and as Blevins is speaking, one other man walks over and motions to my microphone.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Truly, the perfect factor you do to place that [expletive] away and get in your [expletive] automotive and go down the highway.

MORRIS: Rigidity spiked when a recording surfaced with Highland School President Deborah Fox likening a Black soccer participant to Hitler, who she known as, quote, “an incredible chief.” Fox says she meant that the participant was misdirecting his personal appreciable management skills. She apologized for the horrible analogy, however harm was completed.

ANN MYERS: That was a nasty, unhealthy name. I felt disgusted as a human being.

MORRIS: That is Ann Myers, who despatched her son Dominic Perks to Highland School when he was simply 17. In his second 12 months, Perks argued with a campus safety guard. He was expelled the subsequent day. {The teenager} known as his mom, abruptly kicked off campus, locked out of his dorm and stranded 5 hours from his dwelling in St. Louis.

MYERS: It nonetheless bothers me. At that current second, I could not shield him.

MORRIS: Myers says Highland Neighborhood School dealt her son a severe setback. Now the varsity itself is underneath shut scrutiny and struggling to indicate that it is a stepping stone for Black scholar athletes, not a spot the place their sports activities and tutorial careers go to die.

For NPR Information, I am Frank Morris in Highland, Kan.

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