Daycare Discriminated Against 2-Year-Old Black Toddler, Lawsuit Alleges

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An Alabama family claims their two-year-old Black toddler was disciplined far more frequently than other non-Black students at a daycare and was later expelled in retaliation to their complaints.

According to AL.com, Lee and Aletta Williamson filed a lawsuit against Heritage Preschools, a private Christian daycare system in Homewood, Alabama, last month, alleging racial discrimination and retaliation.

The Williamsons said their son was enrolled at Heritage from 2021, when he was two months old, through July 2023, when he was expelled after the family complained about discrimination. The family “thought they could trust Heritage to care for and educate their child because Heritage holds itself out as a family-owned school that ‘provide[s] safe, loving, Christ-centered care.’ They were wrong,” according to the complaint.

Issues began to arise last May after the Williamsons’ two-year-old child got promoted to a new classroom based on his developmental progress. The teacher of the class, identified as Caroline Harmon, “immediately began writing up ‘behavior reports’ accusing [the child] of misbehavior,” according to the lawsuit.

The Williamsons said they received roughly 30 behavior reports within three weeks. According to the suit, the daycare disproportionately punished Black children for behavior that other students weren’t disciplined for, including “sitting under a desk.”

When the parents approached administrators about the alleged discriminatory discipline, the Williamsons’ child was placed on “the preschool equivalent of probation” for four weeks.

Harmon allegedly continued to single out the child during the four weeks. Heritage administrators then “told [the] parents that they would be removing [their son] from the school because of his behavior, as reported by Ms. Harmon,” according to the lawsuit.

The parents were initially given two weeks to find alternative care, but administrators allegedly changed course after the Williamsons “complained of discrimination and threatened legal action,” the lawsuit states. “Heritage retaliated by kicking him out the same day.”

“When you take on the role of educating and training preschool children, you’re assuming a difficult task and responsibility. We understand that. But when you exercise your authority one way for little white children, and you exercise your authority another way for little Black children, particularly Black boys, that’s a violation of the law,” the Williamsons’ attorney, Artur Davis, said.

Heritage Preschools’ CEO, Larry Vann, said in a statement: “Heritage Preschools has very high standards that we hold ourselves to. We take these allegations very seriously. We are looking forward to the opportunity to refute the allegations contained in this filing, which is currently being addressed by our attorneys. We do not comment on pending litigation, however, we adamantly deny these allegations and we are looking forward to vindicating ourselves in the court of law.”

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