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Aberdeen paying $100,000 to bullied student

Charla Bear
Russell Dickerson III (right) sued the Aberdeen School District for not protecting him from racial and sexual harassment. He will get $100,000 in a settlement with the district.

An African-American man who was bullied when he was a student in Aberdeen has won a major settlement from the school district. Russell Dickerson III sued the district in federal court for not stopping his classmates from harassing him throughout junior high and high school. 

Dickerson will get $100,000 for enduring what he said was a “prison sentence” that included “daily fear” of harassment. His lawsuit alleged Aberdeen district officials were well aware that his classmates regularly chastised him for being African-American, threw food at him, and even threatened to lynch him on a website.

Yet, administrators did very little to intervene, according to his complaint.

The suit

ACLU lawyers represented Dickerson. They argued that the Aberdeen school district violated the federal civil rights act and Washington State anti-discrimination law. The ACLU will receive $35,000 dollars in legal fees as part of the settlement.

In response to the lawsuit, Aberdeen’s superintendent responded saying administrators did, in fact, discipline students who were confirmed to have bullied Dickerson and take complaints of harassment very seriously.

The settlement comes a little over a year after Dickerson filed charges.  He’s now 20-years-old and still lives in Aberdeen. In a statement announcing the resolution, he said:

“I learned from my parents that you should never give up.You should fight for your rights – you don’t just walk away."

Charla joined us in January, 2010 and is excited to be back in Seattle after several years in Washington, DC, where she was a director and producer for NPR. Charla has reported from three continents and several outlets including Marketplace, San Francisco Chronicle and NPR. She has a master of journalism from University of California, Berkeley and a bachelor's degree in architecture from University of Washington.
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