The Pryor Four Continue Fight Against Racism
Four parents are in court today, standing up against racial discrimination. Known as the Pryor Four, these Indigenous Montana parents, represented by the ACLU of Montana, were denied entry to a basketball game at Reed Point High School because they were not white.
In January 2017, after traveling nearly 90 miles to cheer on their children, the Pryor Four were denied entrance to the Reed Point gymnasium by Athletic Director Teresa Bare. Waiting outside the school in cold winter weather, the Pryor Four knocked on the door seeking entrance. Ms. Bare opened the door for another individual and announced, “We don’t have any workers yet, so we are only letting white people in.”
“As a Native American, I’ve lived with discrimination my whole life,” said Elsworth GoesAhead, one of the plaintiffs. “No matter how often it happens, it always hurts, it’s always humiliating, and it’s never okay. We filed this lawsuit because we want justice, and because we want our children, our communities, and all other Montanans to know that we won’t let racism persist.”
GoesAhead was joined at the trial by the other plaintiffs: his wife Brandy GoesAhead, Emerine Whiteplume, and Whitney Holds. The plaintiffs are not seeking monetary compensation against Reed Point School District for its illegal and discriminatory conduct. Instead, they are seeking a judgment that vindicates their right to be free from discrimination and requires Reed Point School District to take affirmative steps to ensure that the district no longer engages in discriminatory acts.
“It has taken the Pryor Four enormous courage and persistence to stand up against discrimination and racism,” said ACLU of Montana Legal Director Alex Rate. “The burden shouldn’t be on these families to stop others from committing racist and discriminatory acts. Reed Point School District should own up to the fact that discrimination occurred under its watch and take responsibility to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”
According to a 2017 poll by National Public Radio, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, nearly 40 percent of Indigenous people in the United States report insensitive or offensive comments specifically about their race or ethnicity.
“While this case is specifically about how the Pryor Four were treated by a government official, there is a larger message here,” said Rate. “As a society, we need to do better. We all have a responsibility to call out discrimination when we see it.”
The District Court complaint, filed on February 23, 2018, followed a complaint of discrimination filed with the Montana Human Rights Bureau in May 2017.
Today’s trial is being held at Stillwater County District Court and is presided over by the Honorable Blair Jones.
CONTACT: Kirsten Bokenkamp, ACLU of Montana, 334-314-6582, firstname.lastname@example.org