A Black college student who was kicked out of the campus newspaper for being a Black student has filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Cleveland.
Juanita Jackson, 19, is a first-generation African American who identifies as Hispanic and is a junior at the University of Akron.
In the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Akron, Jackson said that the school’s actions against her were unconstitutional and discriminatory.
Jackson said she was asked to leave the paper’s front page because she is Black.
“There was no evidence to support the notion that I was a member of the Black community,” Jackson said in a statement to ABC News.
“I was a Black college graduate and had been a member for years.
I have not violated any rule or regulation and have never received any form of retaliation or punishment.
I never had a complaint filed against me.”
Jackson said she believes the city is violating the First Amendment.
“We are a city of laws,” Jackson wrote.
“The First Amendment prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, or disability.”
The lawsuit also says the city violated the Fair Housing Act by not allowing a Black member of its staff to serve as the paper editor.
“It’s clear that the Cleveland Police Department and the University cannot protect students from threats and harassment from others because of their race,” the lawsuit reads.
“They cannot be trusted to enforce the law.”
In her lawsuit, Jackson says that she was told by her superiors that she would be fired for speaking out against the paper.
“They didn’t want to make a mistake of making a racist comment that could hurt someone’s career or their reputation, because then that would have to be dealt with and they would lose their jobs,” Jackson told ABC News, adding that she also received threats of violence.
“The people who work for the city don’t care if you are a Black man or a Black woman, they don’t want a problem,” she said.
Jackson is one of at least six Black students at the university who have filed complaints alleging that they have been harassed or threatened by university police, students and campus administration.
In response to the lawsuit in Cleveland, the university said that it has “robust procedures in place to respond to complaints of discrimination, and we take the issue of harassment very seriously.”
It said it will review the claims and take appropriate action.
Jackson’s attorney, James R. Johnson, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Thursday that the lawsuit is “a direct attack on our First Amendment rights.”
“This is a big issue because it’s an issue of First Amendment,” Johnson said.
“We’re trying to protect the rights of our students, but also protect the right of the university to have a paper that they can publish that reflects their values.”
The University of Ohio released a statement saying that the university is committed to equal opportunity and diversity.
“Our commitment to freedom of expression and assembly is enshrined in our core values,” the statement read.
“At Ohio, our goal is to ensure the free flow of ideas, information, and ideas of all kinds across our campus, to ensure that our students can participate fully in our democracy, and that our campus community is as diverse as possible.”
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