WEST SACRAMENTO, CA - A mother claims an elementary school substitute teacher singled out minority students for harassment and encouraged other students to follow her lead. Now, that mother is taking legal action.
The legal claim begins with the actions of one substitute teacher at Southport Elementary School in West Sacramento, but it also points the finger at administrators for contributing to what's described as a pattern of racial discrimination.
"He said, she just picked on me, and she picked on the other black kids in the classroom," said Dr. Kimmie Ezeike as she described what her 9-year-old son told her in March.
The boy told his mother that a substitute teacher became hostile to some of the students, and him in particular. The claim said the teacher grabbed a book from the 9-year-old and threw it; in another incident, the teacher hit him with a pencil.
"He said, 'she called me demons; she told me that I was the devil,'" Ezeike explained.
The substitute teacher also allegedly denied the boy the opportunity to go to the bathroom even after he asked several times.
"He actually urinated on himself in the classroom," Ezeike said.
When she approached school officials, Ezeike said they admitted the substitute had lost control of the classroom and had to be relieved by a vice principal, but Ezeike insists the damage was done.
"You've shown other students that this pattern of behavior is okay," Ezeike said. "They witnessed my son being verbally abused and physically assaulted. What was done for it? So it's setting the tone that this is okay."
In the days that followed, Ezeike said her son was harassed by students who hadn't caused problems before the incident with the substitute.
"There were several occasions where students in the classroom called my son the N-word, made racial slurs towards him, calling him monkeys, telling him he doesn't belong around white people," Ezeike said.
As described in the claim, one child even threatened to kill her son, then pulled a knife on him. Ezeike said she continually reached out to school officials, who did little to help.
That's why she hired an attorney.
"We have no guarantee that this won't happen again next year to some other child. We have no guarantee that they think that this was wrong that happened," Ezeike's attorney Mark Reichel said. "We have no guarantee that they know how to deal with this, and so we have to take this to the court."
"At this early age, this is when we learn behavior. This is what shapes us. This is when racism and all of that starts early on," Ezeike said.
News10 contacted several people at the Washington Unified School District. Eventually, the Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources referred us to the attorney handling the case. That attorney did not return News10 calls.