Obamas’ Nephews Kicked Out of Their Private School — Their Parents Sue for Racial Discrimination
Craig Robinson is the brother of former first lady Michelle Obama and he and his wife Kelly Robinson have taken legal action against a private school in Milwaukee. The school expelled their children after Craig and Kelly raised concerns over the way students of color were being treated, People reports.
On Monday the couple filed a complaint against University School of Milwaukee, which their children had been attending since 2016 until they were expelled.
In a joint statement, the couple said that “as parents of biracial children,” they decided to enroll their kids, ages 9 and 11 at USM because the school “represented itself as having ‘a supportive, inclusive community built on the foundation of…Common Trust.”
In their lawsuit, Craig and Kelly allege that in April 2021 when their oldest son was in fifth grade, he was “suddenly” terminated from the school. That was followed two months later when their younger son, then a third-grader, saw his chances of enrolling in the upcoming school year revoked “without prior notice or just cause,” per the couple’s complaint.
As part of the lawsuit, the Robinsons claim the school took this action after they “raised concerns about USM’s treatment of its students of color and submitted bias incident reports on behalf of underrepresented students.”
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What were the main concerns for Kelly and Craig?
In an interview with Good Morning America, the couple reported they began noticing problems pertaining to the virtual assignments their boys received during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As a lot of parents, we heard what was going on in the classroom because of COVID and there were repeated use of racial and ethnic stereotypes that were in actual assignments,” Craig said. “The use of the word ‘plantation’ and things of that nature.”
Apparently, that wasn’t all either.
“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,” Craig said.
In their statement, the parents said they “felt compelled to raise our concerns and communicate our perspective…just as we had done for years on a variety of other issues where we believed the school could improve.”
“It was not long after we expressed these concerns that we were informed our children were no longer welcome at USM, without any explanation as to why,” the couple allege.
The couple also notes in their complaint that their experience was “part of a broader pattern, extending over many years, of unfair treatment and insensitivity by USM toward its students of color and underrepresented students.”
In their lawsuit, the Robinsons are seeking a jury trial with unspecified monetary damages, but they say taking legal action has “nothing to do with personal financial gain.” They add that any money they do receive “will be put toward initiatives designed to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in schools.”
“This is about accountability, fairness, and doing what is right,” they said in the statement.
The couple’s lawyer, Kimberley Cy Motley, told People that “since the Robinson’s have filed their complaint and come out so publicly about this, there’s literally hundreds of people that are supporting them.” Cy Motley said other people have reached out about “sharing their stories with me legally.”
In a termination letter sent to the couple from USM in June, the parents were informed that they had “violated the School’s Common Trust and had not fulfilled their commitments as partners with USM,” per the lawsuit.
USM has also responded in a public letter Tuesday, stating that while school officials could not comment on the specifics of the legal case, the school’s “enrollment decisions had nothing to do with complaints of inequity or discrimination and we intend to vigorously defend the school against any claim to the contrary.”
UCM representatives said they couldn’t comment on any specifics of the case but Steve Hancock, the head of the school said Tuesday in a statement they “cannot and will not tolerate persistently disrespectful, bullying or harassing behavior directed at our devoted and hardworking teachers and administrators.”
“When such parental conduct threatens the educational environment we have created, we have no choice but to take action,” Hancock said, adding that the school embraces “diversity in all its forms” and “actively encourage and highly value feedback from all our constituents regarding our educational programming.”
I admit I don’t know all the particulars of this case, but if this is true, then why are school officials upset when parents like Craig and Kelly Robinson make suggestions about the changes they would like to see? Seems to me both parties could have discussed this without two young boys being expelled.
"We heard what was going on because of COVID. There were repeated use of racial and ethnic use of stereotypes that were in actual assignments…"
— Good Morning America (@GMA) April 19, 2022