Father of seven-year-old biracial girl whose hair was cut off by white teacher files $1 million lawsuit
The father of a 7-year-old biracial girl whose hair was cut by a white teacher without her parents’ knowledge has filed a $1 million lawsuit against the Michigan school district.
The Mount Pleasant Public Schools lawsuit, filed in federal court Tuesday by Jimmy Hoffmeyer on behalf of his daughter Jurnee, alleges racial discrimination and names elementary school librarian Kelly Mogg and teacher’s assistant Kristen Jacobs as defendants., MLive.com reported.
The submission too accuses the Grand Rapids school district of ethnic harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and assault and violence.
The lawsuit alleges that the child’s constitutional rights were violated when Mogg took it upon himself to cut the student’s hair in March after another Gniard Elementary student cut the child’s curls as a joke days earlier.
“I’ve heard people say, ‘It’s just her.’ But it’s not just her for her. That was her image, that was her self-esteem.’ said Hofmeyer.
“She has nightmares every night now.”
According to the suit, first-grader Jurnee came home in March with nearly all of her hair clipped to within inches of her scalp.
Hoffmeyer informed the school principal of the incident after the first joke, but took no further action “because it was a child.”
Instead, the girl’s father took Jurnee to a salon to have the hairdresser give her an asymmetrical cut.
However, two days after the first hacking job, Jurnee returned home with her hair cut.
This time, however, the work was nowhere near salon quality.
According to the suit, the first-grader came home with nearly all of her hair clipped to within inches of her scalp, leaving her father – who is also biracial – and mother, Christie – who is white – in horror.
“Our kind of hair, you can’t just wet it and cut it,” he told WJRT. “Even if they tried to do it in the goodness of their hearts, once they… [saw] the result, they should have been like, “Yeah, we messed up. We probably should have called him and let him know what just happened.”‘
Hoffmeyer — who is biracial — filed Tuesday’s $1 million lawsuit for “racial discrimination” by school staff toward her daughter
“I asked what happened,” an enraged Hoffmeyer said WJRT, at the sight of Jurnee’s mangled mane.
Hoffmeyer told the outlet that he initially scolded his daughter, saying, “I thought I told you no kid should ever cut your hair.”
‘She said, ‘But Dad, it was the teacher.’ The teacher cut her hair to straighten it out.’
Hoffmeyer immediately contacted the school to complain, but was told that the teacher responsible — school librarian Mogg — would not be subject to disciplinary action other than a note in the personnel file.
“I’ve heard people say, ‘It’s just her.’ But it’s not just her for her. That was her image, that was her self-esteem,” Hoffmeyer says of his daughter’s once luscious locks.
“After that teacher cut her hair, she was so ashamed. So humiliated. Because she had to go back to class soon,” Hoffmeyer said.
In addition, the furious father even claimed that the director was trying to make the incident go away rather than trying to correct it.
“She kept asking me what she could do to make it go away,” Hoffmeyer said of the director.
Jimmy Hoffmeyer pictured with his white wife Christie
In the lawsuit, Hoffmeyer alleges that the defendants have violated Jurnee’s constitutional rights by cutting her hair without her parents’ consent, and are therefore not entitled to qualified immunity — a defense often used by teachers and school administrators when taken personally. sued in federal court for allegedly violating the legal or constitutional rights of another individual.
The lawsuit goes on to state that “the district failed to properly train, monitor, direct, discipline and supervise their employees, and knew or should have known that the employees would engage in the complained behavior given the inappropriate training, practices, procedures, and policies, and the lack of discipline that existed for employees,” citing “deliberate indifference” and was “intractable” or “fluffy,”
A statement from the school board after the incident said the teacher – who is white – “had good intentions” in styling the student’s hair, adding that she was also a cosmetologist
In July, the Mount Pleasant Public Schools Board of Education said the employee who cut Jurnee’s hair was reprimanded and that a third-party investigation found that despite the “good intentions” of the employee who cut the girl’s hair , did so without her parents’ permission and violated school policy without the knowledge of district administrators.
The board decided to place Mogg on a “last chance” employment contract, during which time any further violations “will likely result in termination.”
“We believe that a last-chance deal is appropriate as the employee has an excellent track record and has never been reprimanded in more than 20 years of work at MPPS,” the board wrote.
Two other Gniard employees, including first-degree teaching assistant Kristen Jacobs, were aware of the incident but did not report it to school officials, despite it being against school policies. All three employees have apologized, the board said.
The school board said the independent investigation revealed no racial bias and included interviews with district staff, students and families and a review of video and photos, including social media posts. District administrators also conducted an internal review of the incident.
But Hoffmeyer said the district never questioned him or Jurnee. She now attends a different school, in a different neighbourhood.
According to the US Census, about 4% of Mount Pleasant’s 25,000 residents are black.
Since the incident, Hoffmeyer has received support from the California-based National Parents Union, a network of parent organizations advocating for a better quality of life for children in the U.S.
“NPU has shown so much support for my family,” Hoffmeyer said. “I can’t even imagine doing this without them. I don’t know the laws and don’t know how to contact the right people to get things right.”
NPU Director of Policy and Legislation Christina Laster hosted a GoFundMe on April 26 with a fundraising goal of $50,000.
Amy Bond, president of the Mount Pleasant Public Schools Board of Education, said Thursday the district has not received the complaint.
“We are confident that facts will prevail given our district’s appropriate and aggressive response to the incident and the findings of the third-party investigation that was conducted,” Bond said in a statement. “We will aggressively defend ourselves against these baseless charges in court and will not be distracted from our mission to provide every child with a world-class education that prepares them for college and for their careers.”
The next hearing date for Hoffmeyer’s lawsuit is pending.