Black teacher sues North Slope district for not addressing students’ racist threats in Nuiqsut

The North Slope village of Nuiqsut (Photo courtesy of North Slope School District)

A former teacher at the Trapper School in the village of Nuiqsut is suing the North Slope Borough School District, claiming the district did not properly address racist actions by students.

In a lawsuit filed last week, attorneys for Candice Gardner, a Black woman, say that students in Nuiqsut made racist threats to Gardner in a classroom setting in 2017. That includes an incident where a student called Gardner a “ni–er b—ch” and told her to “get [her] Black ugly ass out of our village.”

Attorneys also cite incidents of racist graffiti using the “N word” within the school building. The lawsuit quotes the principal of the school at the time saying the graffiti was “just a little bit” racially motivated and “done in a real cute little font.”

According to the lawsuit, Gardner was the only Black resident of Nuiqsut at the time, and racist actions like these had not occurred before.

When Gardner brought complaints to the school principal, her attorneys say, students were not appropriately disciplined and the harmful actions continued. 

In a separate incident, while Gardner was on bereavement leave, lawyers say a student fashioned a noose out of rope and said, “this is for Ms. Gardner.” 

According to the lawsuit, a police investigation found that the student’s parents were not contacted about the incident. Gardner says she feared for her safety, and alleges that the district did nothing to reprimand the student. When she requested a transfer to a different village school, lawyers say, the district delayed the request indefinitely. 

Lawyers also wrote that when Gardner made hate crime complaints to the district, officials refused to either release her from her contract or allow her to transfer schools unless she stopped her allegations of racism. 

After filing an inquiry with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Gardner was issued a notice of a right to sue earlier this month. 

Gardner is suing under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which protects against discrimnation on the basis of race. School district officials did not respond to requests for comment.

North Slope Borough School District superintendent Pauline Harvey says it is district policy not to comment on pending litigation.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a comment from the North Slope Borough School District.