June 2, 2023

Native American student’s anti-discrimination lawsuit can move forward, NM Appeals Court ruled

Joe Gratz


A lawsuit against Albuquerque Public Schools for alleged discriminatory remarks against a Native American student can move forward, the New Mexico Court of Appeals ruled last week.

The New Mexico Court of Appeals decided that APS must adhere to state anti-discriminatory laws and the case has been remanded back to district court to be heard on its merits.

Monica Armenta, executive director of communications for APS, said the district is reviewing its options and is considering the option of appeal.

In 2018, a teacher at an Albuquerque Public Schools cut one Native American student’s hair and called another Native American student a “bloody Indian,” during a game the students were playing in class on Halloween. The plaintiff argued that the teacher created a hostile learning environment and discriminated against Native American students. The complaint also alleged that APS failed to properly train teachers on the harms of racism and to provide for its students’ safety.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, the New Mexico Center for Law and Poverty and a private law firm are representing the plaintiff in the case.

The plaintiff, Mackenzie Johnson, called it a “huge breakthrough for Indigenous students and for all students, especially brown students.”