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Colerain and students settle lawsuit

Ann Thompson
The picture was taken at a news conference the plaintiffs held this spring after filing the lawsuit.

Creation of a diversity respect program is at the center of a settlement between the Northwest Local School District and four former and current Colerain High School students who sued the district in a federal lawsuit in April, 2014. Plaintiffs claimed violation of free speech rights and discrimination of race.

All students, faculty and administrators will have to participate in the program, which could become a national model.

Plantiffs' attorney Bob Newman praises the school for taking this step. He says, "Colerain is really being very bold and seizing this opportunity to turn a lawsuit into something that is going to be of lasting nature to the school and I really admire them for doing this."

This spring WVXU reported on the lawsuit after a news conference by the plaintiffs, who claimed:

"(Colerain) suspended and expelled them (the 4 students) for participating in rap music videos and displaying hip-hop hand gestures in photographs taken outside of school hours and posted to personal social media accounts."

In April school attorney John Concannon said the video, pictures and gang allegations had nothing to do with why the students were suspended and expelled. He said, "What they were disciplined for was their threatening activity towards other students on campus, through social media, also face to face on campus and through social media."

The Settlement:

  • The parties will meet and plan a diversity respect program to be given at Colerain High School before the end of the 2014-15 school year.
  • The purpose of the diversity respect program is to "foster racial understanding."
  • The district will expunge the expulsions of the plaintiffs.
  • The district will restore the plaintiffs' grades.
  • The district will pay attorney fees, costs and expenses.

With more than 30 years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market, Ann Thompson brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology.