Dickerson v. Aberdeen

This court case is completed

In December 2010, ACLU-WA directly represented the family of a teenager who suffered years of harassment in his school district. Russell Dickerson III was one of the few African-American students attending school in the Aberdeen School District. Throughout middle and high school, he was constantly the victim of severe bullying, much of which was racially motivated. He received notes in his locker with racial slurs on them. He was physically assaulted. One student created a MySpace profile page on the Internet that threatened to hang Russell. Other times, he was spat on, had water thrown on him, and has his lunch tray knocked over. On top of the racial slurs, he was also tormented for his perceived sexuality, as he was regularly called a “gaywad.” Russell suffered this torment in his schools for six years from 2003-2009. He regularly reached out to the administration for help, but no assistance was provided that stopped the bullying. In December 2010, ACLU-WA accepted Russell as a client and sued Aberdeen School District for failing to protect him. In their complaint, the accused the school district of violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (for failing to protect Russell from taunts regarding his race); violating Tile IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (for failing to take action in response to numerous reports that Russell suffered sexual harassment); violating the Washington Law Against Discrimination; and for negligence and outrage. After a year of negotiations, Aberdeen School District agreed to pay Russell and his family $100,000 for their failure to protect Russell from years of harassment. ACLU-WA attorneys working on the case were Sarah Dunne, Nancy Talner, and Rose Spidell, and cooperating attorneys were Michael Scott, Joseph Sakay, and Alexander Wu of Hillis Clark Martin and Peterson, P.S.