Jamillah Richmond is the co-founder of the Parents of Color Council, a separate group advising the district. She said her nine-year-old daughter attends a BVSD school and has been punished for responding to bullying. Credit: Rebecca Caridad

The Boulder Valley School District has agreed to pay the parent of a Black student $32,500, the second financial agreement related to a discrimination lawsuit filed earlier this year by a white family. 

The recipient of the payment, Jamillah Richmond, is a substitute teacher for the district and co-founder of the Parents of Color Council. She did not file a lawsuit against the school district before agreeing to the settlement. 

However, she had withdrawn her daughter from Whittier Elementary School after, among other reasons, a teacher filed an affidavit in the lawsuit against BVSD describing Richmond’s daughter as one who “struggles with impulse control.” Richmond also alleged a cafeteria worker denied her daughter food for refusing to accept an apology from another student, she said.

The district did not admit any wrongdoing, according to a redacted version of the agreement shared with Boulder Reporting Lab. The agreement states that one of its purposes was to avoid potential litigation. Richmond is now barred from suing the school district. 

The settlement comes about three months after the district agreed to pay the white family the same $32,500 after they sued the district for “unfair and selectively enforced disciplinary processes, and other discrimination on the basis of race.” Many of the allegations in the lawsuit involved Richmond and her daughter, though Richmond was not named as a defendant. After the district announced the settlement with the white family, Richmond described it as an “example of what structural racism looks like.” 

The school board did not vote whether to approve the settlement with the white family, but several board members said they would have opposed it. Consejo Asesor de Padres Latinos (CAPL), a group of Latino parents that advises the district and has long advocated for reforming disciplinary policies, also opposed the agreement. In a statement, the group said it could “set a terrible precedent that will allow any white family of means to use the legal system to undermine the equitable discipline policies.” 

Richmond said she hopes her settlement with the district will help set a “counter precedent.” 

“If something like this were to ever happen again, you’re not just paying one family that could afford to sue you,” she told Boulder Reporting Lab. 

Under the terms of the agreement, the district’s insurer will pay Richmond $12,500 directly, and the remaining $20,000 must be spent on “compensatory education services.” Richmond’s daughter is currently being homeschooled, Richmond said. 

During her settlement negotiations with the district, Richmond said she requested that representatives for Black and Latino parents be able to sit in on contract negotiations with the teachers union. She also requested that one of her daughter’s former teachers be removed. This came after the teacher alleged that Richmond bullied another student and filed an affidavit in the white family’s lawsuit that said her daughter “struggles with impulse control and will frequently hit, kick, or strangle other students.” Both requests were denied, according to Richmond.

A principal at Whittier Elementary School found a white student made a discriminatory comment to a Black student. The family of the white student sued the district for “unfair and selectively enforced disciplinary processes, and other discrimination on the basis of race.” Credit: John Herrick

In an emailed statement to Boulder Reporting Lab, Randy Barber, a spokesman for the district, wrote “we are committed to investigating allegations and addressing conduct as part of creating equitable conditions for working and learning. We also recognize that litigation can impact students and their ability to access school. Through this settlement, BVSD aims to repair educational losses that may have occurred and resolve any remaining issues so that all involved may move forward.” 

The agreement highlights continuing tensions over how the district responds to disparities in the rates of student punishment that have historically disadvantaged Black and Latino students

Richmond’s settlement with the district is not related to any official disciplinary action taken by the school or district against her daughter. Instead, Richmond said she is mostly concerned about several educators who allegedly “mistreated” her daughter. Richmond and other parents have argued for teachers to be held accountable for unfairly punishing students. 

In recent years, the district has take several steps aimed at reducing disparities in discipline rates. These measures include publishing data on suspension rates for each of its schools, hiring more Black and Latino teachers, implementing restorative justice practices, and removing school resource officers from schools.

Earlier this month, district officials presented the data for the 2023-24 school year to the Board of Education that found that the number of suspensions has decreased, but the disparities among white and Latino students has increased.

Clarification: This story was updated on Nov. 1 to more precisely characterize the allegations in the lawsuit filed against BVSD earlier this year and the circumstances that led Richmond to decide to withdraw her daughter from Whittier.

John Herrick is a reporter for Boulder Reporting Lab, covering housing, transportation, policing and local government. He previously covered the state Capitol for The Colorado Independent and environmental policy for VTDigger.org. Email: john@boulderreportinglab.org.

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