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

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



AILSA CHANG, HOST:

In rural Kansas, lawsuits alleging racial hostility are sending a neighborhood faculty into upheaval. As Frank Morris of member station KCUR studies, the scenario 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 fuel station, no stoplights. However the pupil physique at Highland Neighborhood Faculty is numerous due to athletes right here on scholarship like Aiden Moore from Louisville, Ky.

AIDEN MOORE: It was actually my final probability. You realize, 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 group. 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 every part was cool. However afterward that day, that is when folks began telling me I acquired kicked off the group.

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 precise phrases had been, I wanted to recruit extra youngsters 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 realize precisely what I am saying.

MORRIS: From then on, Smith alleges the college has appeared for excuses to punish Black gamers. Smith misplaced his job in 2020 and just lately sued the college 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 coed athletes at Highland are Black, similar as when Smith left virtually two years in the past.

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

RYAN KUHNERT: It was essentially 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 Faculty is simply attempting to strengthen its ties to the neighborhood.

JERRY BLEVINS: The rationale 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: Really, the most effective factor you do to place that [expletive] away and get in your [expletive] automobile 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 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 injury was performed.

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 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} known as his mom, all of a sudden kicked off campus, locked out of his dorm and stranded 5 hours from his residence 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 critical setback. Now the college itself is beneath shut scrutiny and struggling to indicate that it is a stepping stone for Black pupil athletes, not a spot the place their sports activities and educational careers go to die.

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

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