Michelle Obama’s brother sues Milwaukee school for kicking out his kids

Dispute centres around whether parents went above and beyond to raise concerns

John Bowden
Saturday 23 April 2022 23:32 EDT
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The brother of former first lady Michelle Obama has filed a lawsuit after his young “model student” sons were dismissed from their university prep school following a dispute between his family and school administrators over teachers allegedly using inappropriate language in class.

Craig Robinson and wife Kelly appeared on Good Morning America on Tuesday to discuss the lawsuit. According to their court filing, the school dismissed their 9-year-old and 11-year-old after the parents complained to the school about the inappropriate use of racially-charged language like the word “plantation” during classtime.

“There were repeated uses of racial and ethnic stereotypes that were in actual assignments,” Mr Robinson told the program. “The use of the word plantation, and things of that nature.

“In addition to the racial and ethnic stereotypes, there was an insensitivity to socioeconomic status and as well as a disregard for the children who weren't physically in the classroom,” he continued.

He added that he and his wife only discovered the language’s use because lessons turned to remote learning as a result of Covid-19. The family made the complaints in January and March of last year, in two written letters. One of their sons would be dismissed a month later, and the other in June.

In letters to the parents, the school wrote that the terminations were the result of the Robinsons having supposedly “not fulfilled the foregoing commitments as a partner to USM and its Middle School teachers and administrators”.

But the family claim their kids were dismissed after “the Robinsons communicated directly with USM faculty and staff about the inclusion of language in various worksheets and projects that was offensive to persons of color, persons with disabilities, indigenous Americans and other underrepresented students.”

They noted in the GMA interview that the school has a history of such incidents.

“Just as recently as 10 years ago, the University School of Milwaukee had in their fourth-grade curriculum that students reenacted the underground railroad. And students dressed up as slaves and ran through the school in the dark and the teachers were actually the slave masters who captured these students,” Kelly Robinson said.

The school responded in a lengthy letter posted on its website denying the Robinsons’ claims. The letter also allowed parents to view the classroom assignments in question, and judge for themselves whether the content was appropriate.

“Contrary to what has been alleged, our decision to non-renew this family’s children was based entirely on the parents’ decision to repeatedly engage in disrespectful, demanding, and bullying conduct toward and relating to our teachers and administrators,” wrote University School of Milwaukee head of school Steve Hancock.

He added that the school was “fully prepared to vigorously defend itself against the allegations made in the family’s lawsuit”.

That practice was discontinued after complaints from parents, students, and alumni, according to GMA.

The school declined to comment on the lawsuit, citing it having been delivered to their legal counsel and not the school directly.

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