Parents claim racism in Harper Lee's Ala. hometown

A south Alabama town that was the inspiration for the setting in Harper Lee's book "To Kill a Mockingbird" is finding itself as the backdrop for a real-life legal case involving allegations of racism at school.

The parents of several black junior high school students have filed a discrimination lawsuit claiming their children are subject to racial slurs and punished more harshly than white students at Monroeville Junior High School.

The lawsuit says black students at the county's only public junior high have been called slurs such as the "N-word," "filthy trash" and "black monkey." Their parents also say classes are segregated, with most black students being kept out of advanced placement and honors courses.

The action, originally filed in August, was revived this week by the American Civil Liberties Union in U.S. Southern District Court on behalf of nine students. It names the Monroe County Board of Education, Monroeville Junior High principal Lana Wilson, county superintendent Dennis Mixon, and the five-member school board.

"I just feel like every student should have the right to a decent education regardless of race, creed or color," said Tangelia Yates, a parent involved in the lawsuit whose son is an eighth grader. "We need to make sure that that happens within the Alabama school system, particularly Monroe County."

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