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Judge drops Watertown school district from ‘slave auction’ lawsuit

North Elementary School in Watertown.
North Elementary School in Watertown.(Source: WWNY)
Published: Oct. 6, 2021 at 11:47 AM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - A federal judge has dropped the Watertown school district from the “slave auction” lawsuit.

A teacher at North Elementary School is accused of conducting a mock ‘slave auction’ with a group of fourth graders in May, 2019.

The mother of one of two Black students used as slaves, Nicole Dayes, sued the teacher, Patricia Bailey, and the district. Dayes said her son and another Black child were ““instructed...that they were to stand at the front of the class while their classmates yelled out numbers to bid on them,” and instructed that, “if this were a real auction, they would be shackled, . . . naked, and . . . their legs would be broken if they tried to escape,” according to court papers.

Bailey also instructed them that, once they were purchased, “they would have to take the last name of their new ‘owner’ and would have to refer to their owner as master,” according to Dayes’ lawsuit.

As a result, Dayes claimed her son suffered “psychological issues, pain and suffering, mental anguish and extreme emotional distress.”

As part of her lawsuit, Dayes sued the school district, claiming Bailey got little or no training regarding racial discrimination, harassment, and “racially hostile educational environments in the classroom.”

Moreover, Dayes claimed, when the incident came to light, the district didn’t follow up with “a formal statement denouncing . . . Bailey’s conduct, and no adequate disciplinary action against Bailey.”

Bailey retired after the incident.

But U.S. District Court judge Gary Sharpe ruled Dayes’ accusations don’t show “the District acted in a manner that is arbitrary, conscience-shocking, or oppressive.”

Sharpe threw out the complaints Dayes, the parent, brought against the district and, separately, complaints brought by Bailey, the teacher, against the district. (Bailey is arguing that should Dayes win in federal court, the district is at least partly responsible. Her lawyers also argued, unsuccessfully, that district officials defamed her with some of their comments after the incident.)

What remains of Dayes’ lawsuit is one claim against Bailey, that Bailey violated the state’s “equal protection” guarantee which prohibits government officials from discriminating against individuals based on their race.

The judge declined to punish Bailey and her lawyers for filing what the school district said were her “frivolous” claims against it.

Bailey continues to have a legal claim against the district’s insurance company, seeking to be protected financially if the lawsuit goes against her.

The Watertown Times first reported the judge’s ruling Wednesday morning.

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