Parent sues Rocori schools over accusations of racist bullying

A woman hugs a younger girl.
Cold Spring resident Andrea Robinson would like to see a stop to the racist comments on social media directed at her daughter Olivia Williams.
Paul Middlestaedt for MPR News

A Cold Spring parent is suing a central Minnesota school district over racist bullying and harassment she says her Black children endured at school.

Andrea Robinson, who’s been vocal about her multiracial family’s experiences with racism in the small Stearns County town, filed the lawsuit Jan. 21 in federal court on behalf of two of her children.

The lawsuit accuses the district of violating Title VI and Title IX of the 1964 Civil Rights Act by failing to respond to repeated reports of harassment and bullying.

The complaint alleges that both children were called racial slurs and threatened multiple times in classrooms, hallways and on buses. It accuses the district of “deliberate indifference” despite repeated complaints by Robinson and her children.

"They would raise these concerns, and in the school, officials were incredibly dismissive of the concerns, and they would just instinctively side with the harassers,” said Paul Kinne, Robinson’s attorney. “That simply compounded the kind of harassment that the kids were facing."

Rocori officials say they have not been served with the lawsuit, and are not in a position to comment on the allegations.

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People hold signs while sitting on bleachers.
People hold signs during a Rocori school board meeting on May 17, 2021 in Cold Spring, Minn. Several people addressed the board with concerns about racism and bullying toward students of color.
Kirsti Marohn | MPR News 2021

The lawsuit mentions incidents when students directed racial slurs toward Robinson’s children, stole food from one’s tray and threw it at him and poured baby powder in his hair on the bus. It says teachers and staff didn’t intervene — or targeted Robinson’s children for discipline.

Last year, Robinson sparked a community-wide debate after she posted a video on social media, voicing her frustrations about ongoing harassment of her children. She said that included a group of high school students starting a Snapchat group about her daughter and making threats about lynching. 

Robinson also raised her concerns to the Rocori school board, which promised to investigate and develop an action plan to address racism and bullying in the district.

Robinson’s lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of damages to compensate for the education they lost and the emotional stress they suffered, Kinne said.

car crashing into a home
Andrea Robinson posted this photo to Facebook after a man allegedly intentionally crashed his vehicle crashed into her house in July 2021.
Andrea Robinson via Facebook

"First and foremost, she'd like to see meaningful change at the school,” he said. “Not just here, but everywhere, to kind of send a message so kids like her kids don't have to go through with this ever, again anywhere else."

Robinson’s family received an outpouring of support last summer after a Richmond, Minn., man crashed his car into their house, causing extensive damage. He faces several charges in Stearns County District Court.