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Civil Rights Lawsuit Alleges Elementary School Teacher Assaulted, Segregated Black Students

Saint Paul, MN – A federal civil rights lawsuit alleges that a former second-grade teacher physically assaulted at least three Black children in her class, segregated them from the other students, and choked a 7-year-old boy in front of his classmates.

The suit filed by Kirsten Lindsey, the parent of the 7-year-old boy who was allegedly choked, says that Harambee Elementary School teacher Geraldine Cook choked her son and left him so traumatized that he had to transfer out of the district. The 7-year-old has learning disabilities and underwent a mental health evaluation after the incident.

Lindsey is suing Roseville Area Schools and teacher Geraldine Cook for racial discrimination, unequal protection, battery, and negligent supervision. The suit was filed last week in U.S. District Court in St. Paul.

According to the lawsuit, at least two other black students in Cook’s class were assaulted by the teacher in the 2019-20 school year.

At the time, Lindsey was a volunteer at the school and expressed her concerns with Cook after she says Cook told her she was having trouble with her few Black students. Lindsey noted that Cook made the black students sit together in one section of the classroom.

Lindsey says she brought her concerns about Cook’s treatment of her Black students to principal Delon Smith but nothing was done. Later when Cook complained again to Lindsey about her Black students, Lindsey brought her concerns to the principal again, and still nothing was done.  

According to the lawsuit, Cook assaulted at least three of the Black students in her class during this time. One girl reported that Cook pulled on her arm so hard that it ripped her shirt. Another boy said he was assaulted and told the principal that Cook pushed, shoved and “smooshed the faces” of the Black students.

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The suit alleges that Lindsey’s son was strangled by Cook in class. Students told the principal that Cook choked the 7-year-old child because he was gurgling water. She also walked him to the principal’s office with his hands behind his back, like he was a criminal.

According to the lawsuit, Lindsey says she only learned of the choking incident after Cook was removed from the classroom. Prompting her to think the principal was trying to cover up the incident and keep her from finding out.

Lindsey had her son examined for psychological problems, the lawsuit says. The results showed he was suffering from recent trauma. After learning the details of the choking incident, Lindsey then transferred her son to another school.

Her lawsuit is seeking an unspecified amount in compensation for the violation of the rights of her son and the alleged harms done to him.

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