PORTALES, N.M. (KAMR/KCIT) — Two sets of parents with students in Portales Municipal Schools recently filed a lawsuit, claiming that an incident which began in the students’ English class violated the New Mexico Tort Claims Act as well as the New Mexico Civil Rights Act.

According to court documents filed in the Ninth Judicial District Court in Roosevelt County, two sets of parents of Portales High School students filed the lawsuit against the school system April 5. This all stemmed from an assignment given to a ninth grade Honors’ English Class after reading “The Hate U Give”, a class that the two students were in.

In late January 2022, the lawsuit claims the teacher of the class at Portales High School, passed out a discussion question worksheet for the students to complete. According to the court documents, the assignment allegedly gave the students the choice to agree or disagree with questions, including whether or not the student would “snitch” on someone for any reason and whether “Black culture” exists.

The documents claim the teacher praised the students who agreed with their opinions to what they believed the correct answer was. While looking for different opinions, three students, including the two students involved with the lawsuit, raised their hand, allegedly saying that they may “snitch if someone was hurt and needed help or if they saw a murder. They also argued that ‘Black culture’ does not necessarily exist because not all people with the same skin pigmentation have the same beliefs, cultural norms and lifestyle.”

After the students allegedly raised the additional opinion, the documents claim the teacher “verbally attacked” the students and “encouraged other students to bully” the students who raised the other opinion, the documents read. Officials said the two students listed in the lawsuit received threats and comments.

The two students involved in the lawsuit were ultimately moved to another English class at the school after the alleged threats and abuse. The documents said after the two students moved out of the class, the teacher allegedly reported to their students that their “job was in jeopardy because of the ‘two boys and their parents that complained about the book….'”

“(The two students) felt unsafe because this teacher had improperly used (their) influence to turn students against them,” the lawsuit read.

The lawsuit states the teacher resigned from their position at Portales High School on Feb. 19, allegedly leaving a note to their students on the board. On Feb. 25, students participated in a “walk-out” protest at the school, allegedly calling for justice for the teacher and yelling expletives in relation to the two students, according to documents.

The lawsuit said the two students were pulled out of Portales High School after the incident. The lawsuit stresses that the two students did not object to the book being taught or discussed “in a frank and open way.” The lawsuit objects to what they say was “indoctrination” from the teacher.

The lawsuit raises two claims for each of the students listed in the lawsuit. First, the lawsuit claims that the school system violated the New Mexico Tort Claims Act, saying:

  • “(The) Defendant was negligent in the operation and maintenance of it(s) high school building, equipment and furnishings;”
  • “(The) Defendant’s negligence caused (the) Plaintiffs’ damages including pain and sufferings, loss of enjoyment of life and other continuing damages the extent of which may be unknown at this time;”
  • “(The) Plaintiffs should be awarded damages against (the) Defendant) for their negligence.”

The lawsuit also claims that the school system violated the New Mexico Civil Rights Act, saying the plaintiffs’ civil rights, including free speech and “unalienable rights to defend their liberty, protecting property and seeking and obtaining safety and happiness” were violated. Because of this, the lawsuit claims that further damages should be awarded to the Plaintiffs against the Defendant.

MyHighPlains.com has reached out to Portales Municipal Schools for comment on the lawsuit. We have not heard back after our request for comment.