Two students who were adopted from Cambodia say they endured so much racist bullying at their Arkansas high school—including threats from an “angry mob” of students—that they were forced to withdraw and be homeschooled, according to a federal lawsuit.
The 22-page complaint filed last week by Kameron and Noah Evans alleges that the brothers were bullied at Cabot High School, which is 87.5 percent white, over their “appearance, race, ethnicity, perceived religious beliefs, and beliefs about the need for racial justice.”
During the 2017-2018 school year, the boys’ last in the Cabot School District, 98 percent of the teachers in the district were white, according to the lawsuit, which was first reported by the Arkansas Times. The lawsuit names as defendants Cabot School District, its superintendent Tony Thurman, and the high-school principal, Henry Hawkins.
The boys were “always” perceived “as different and suspicious” by their white peers, the lawsuit claims. In middle school, Kameron’s classmates allegedly spread a false rumor that he was in a flag-burning video that circulated among students on social media. Afterward, “a large, angry mob of students” threatened Kameron at school, “requiring he run for what he felt like was his life,” according to the lawsuit.
“Kameron made it into the principal’s office and was not harmed, but he had to be escorted to class by a police officer for days afterward,” the complaint alleges.
The school declined to discipline any students for threatening Kameron, the lawsuit claims.
Since that encounter, the boys “endured bullying in the form of repeated acts of harassment, humiliation and ridicule,” according to the lawsuit. They were also allegedly subjected to racial slurs—including “n-----,” “chink,” “gook,” and “terrorists”—and told to “go back where you came from” and “you don’t belong here.”
When Kameron told an administrator that another student was “terrorizing him daily by physically punching Kameron and ridiculing him for his inability to prevent the bullying,” he was told to “stay away” from the bully, according to the lawsuit.
The bullying intensified after Kameron wore a Black Lives Matter T-shirt to school and posted on social media in support of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and other athletes who have kneeled during the national anthem, the lawsuit claims.
“He was again physically threatened by an angry mob of students,” the complaint alleges, adding that, though the mob relented when Noah stepped in to protect his brother, “some students remained determined to ‘get’ Kameron.”
When Kerri Evans, the boys’ mother, met with Hawkins, the principal, about the bullying, he allegedly admonished them for publicly supporting Kaepernick and the Black Lives Matter movement. “You can’t go around Cabot High School saying things like that,” he allegedly said.
“To the extent that Thurman and Hawkins took corrective measures on the reports of bullying, those measures were ineffective,” the lawsuit states. “Whenever [Kameron and Noah] reported bullying, they would be told to ‘stay away’ from the bully, and the bully would suffer no consequences.”
When the brothers, who were cadets in the school’s junior ROTC program, wore military-style pocketed vests to school in February “because they looked cool and the pockets were good for carrying their school supplies,” they were both arrested on charges of disorderly conduct after white students reported them to administrators, the complaint alleges.
Earlier in the year, a white student wore a full military uniform, including a bullet-proof vest, and was not disciplined, the lawsuit states.
Kameron and Noah were both acquitted of the disorderly conduct charges.
After the arrests, the principal recommended expulsion for both boys, who were juniors at the time. Instead, their mother withdrew them because she felt the principal and superintendent “were deliberately indifferent to them being bullied and might have them arrested for no reason (again).”
The Evans family is seeking unspecified punitive and compensatory damages and a jury trial.
In a statement released by the school district, the superintendent said of the lawsuit: “We would certainly like to respond, but it is best that we not at this time.”