Craig and Kelly Robinson were shocked when they received a letter in June of 2021 informing them their children would not be allowed back as students at the University School of Milwaukee.
They say it was retaliation for issues Kelly raised with the school about virtual learning.
The two have since filed a lawsuit against the University School of Milwaukee.
The couple sat down with WTMJ’s Libby Collins to share their story.
Listen in the player above.
A portion of the conversation was transcribed below, courtesy of eCourt Reporters, Inc.
LIBBY COLLINS: Well, let’s start at the beginning. Why did you file this suit?
CRAIG ROBINSON: Well, Libby, I’ll start. You know, with the onset of the pandemic, as you’ve heard, our 11- and 9-year-old; now 12 and 10-year-old sons were virtual learners most of last year — all of last year, actually. And what we saw looking into their — kind of looking into their classrooms for the first time was a repeated use of racial and ethnic stereotypes in assignments, the actual assignment they were being given; a disregard for children who weren’t physically present in the classroom; and an insensitivity to socioeconomic status. And as parents would do, we raised these concerns about bias with the school and the changes that we thought they needed to make, and not in any way other than to sort of help them understand what maybe they didn’t understand what they were doing, or what it meant to the people who the children and the families they represented.
And they subsequently retaliated against our children after we voiced our concerns about an issue of racial bias and insensitivity, and summarily dismissed our two young sons. And we, you know, want to hold the university responsible, accountable for what they did to us and our kids.
And so, after talking to other current and former University School of Milwaukee families, we learned that our experience wasn’t unique at all. As a matter of fact, there were quite a few families that said– that the similar things have happened to them when they brought up issues that were uncomfortable for the school.
And so, this pattern of behavior was apparent to us, and after we heard many troubling stories of, you know, the toxic culture around race and bias issues, that’s when we decided to file a lawsuit.
LIBBY COLLINS: All right. Well, let me — let me start then at the beginning of when you started to notice this racial and ethnic bias. The kids were at school — or the kids were at home learning virtually, did you overhear what was being taught or what — what began this process?
CRAIG ROBINSON: Well, it was a combination of what — what our children told us and what we could hear just being in a house where you’ve got two virtual learners who have their — their computers on, so. And once we were aware — we were made aware of this by our children, we investigated.
LIBBY COLLINS: What were some of the specifics? What were some of the concerns that they came to you with in the beginning?
CRAIG ROBINSON: Well, I mean —
KELLY ROBINSON: Yeah, I think I would say — I would say that, you know, as Craig mentioned, while we did witness racial and ethnic and socioeconomic biases, I think the real egregious behavior was how the University School of Milwaukee reacted because of these concerns. Instead of confronting them, they acted vindictively towards our children. But I don’t know that the specific evidence is relative. I mean, you know, people can agree or disagree about worksheets and say how they were used, but the focus really should be on how they responded to our reasonable conversations surrounding the issues and the fact that we were loving parents protecting our kids and the school community. This wasn’t just about our kids, it was about all kids, and specifically those who were learning from home. But instead of acknowledging the issues, their default was to attack us.
LIBBY COLLINS: Who did you reach out to initially? Was it the teacher himself or herself, or did you reach out to an administrative head?
KELLY ROBINSON: The — we did — I did not reach out to the teacher about any bias incidents. They have a reporting system, and so if there was a bias, they created a group, a bias incident reporting system last year. And so, I reported it directly to that, on that system. And that is supposed to be confidential. So, it goes to, I guess, their direct of diversity who then funnels it down through the head of either the middle school — in this case. So, that information is shared with administrators, it is not shared with teachers. It’s not supposed to be shared.
CRAIG ROBINSON: It’s supposed to be confidential.
KELLY ROBINSON: It’s supposed to be confidential. The information is shared, but not who sent in the reports, that information should not be shared.
LIBBY COLLINS: When you sent the report, were you contacted by anyone?
KELLY ROBINSON: No, I actually had to contact them because of — I sent an email just letting the head of the middle school know that I had submitted a bias report. And apparently the first report that I had submitted, the reporting mechanism was not working, so I was then told to resubmit it.
LIBBY COLLINS: What do you mean “it wasn’t working”?
KELLY ROBINSON: That they hadn’t received the report.
LIBBY COLLINS: Did you believe that they didn’t receive it?
KELLY ROBINSON: I don’t — I don’t know. I don’t know. They said they did not receive it, so I then resubmitted it. They worked on their end to repair whatever may have gone wrong. I resubmitted the document and the form, and they were going to look into the — the bias that I had reported.
LIBBY COLLINS: And once you did that, did you get a response from them?
KELLY ROBINSON: I received a call from the head of school challenging my bias report, indicating that it was not considered a bias. And then the subsequent bias reports that I submitted, I did not receive any follow up to those, no.