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


A Kansas neighborhood faculty president is below fireplace for evaluating a Black scholar athlete to Hitler. Lawsuits accuse the president of a concerted effort to shrink the Black scholar physique on the faculty.



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In rural Kansas, lawsuits alleging racial hostility are sending a neighborhood faculty into upheaval. As Frank Morris of member station KCUR reviews, the state of affairs boiled over just lately when the president of the faculty 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 Faculty is various due to athletes right here on scholarship like Aiden Moore from Louisville, Ky.

AIDEN MOORE: It was actually my final likelihood. , 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 staff. KeJuan Carson from Auburn, Ala., says it occurred to him after simply asking permission to skip one observe to complete an English paper.

KEJUAN CARSON: And I assumed the whole lot was cool. However in a while that day, that is when individuals began telling me I obtained kicked off the staff.

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 legislation.

B J SMITH: His actual phrases had been, I wanted to recruit extra children the tradition of our neighborhood might relate to. I stated, I truthfully do not know what you imply. What are you saying? And he very aggressively stated, you recognize 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 just lately sued the varsity together with two assistant coaches, alleging a sustained assault on Black college students. Highland President Deborah Fox issued a press release strongly denying the allegations and asserting that just about half the scholar athletes at Highland are Black, identical 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 individuals I would 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 Faculty is simply attempting to strengthen its ties to the neighborhood.

JERRY BLEVINS: The rationale why they need Kansas children – it has nothing to do with Black or white. They need native children – so with their mother and father 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: Really, one of the best factor you do to place that [expletive] away and get in your [expletive] automotive and go down the street.

MORRIS: Rigidity spiked when a recording surfaced with Highland Faculty President Deborah Fox likening a Black soccer participant to Hitler, who she referred to 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 accomplished.

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

MORRIS: That is Ann Myers, who despatched her son Dominic Perks to Highland Faculty when he was simply 17. In his second yr, Perks argued with a campus safety guard. He was expelled the subsequent day. {The teenager} referred to as his mom, all of the sudden 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 defend him.

MORRIS: Myers says Highland Neighborhood Faculty dealt her son a severe setback. Now the varsity itself is below shut scrutiny and struggling to point out 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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