Brother, sister-in-law of Michelle Obama suing private Milwaukee school

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The brother and sister-in-law of Michelle Obama are suing a private Milwaukee school after alleging that the school removed their two sons, ages 9 and 11, because the parents expressed concerns over racial and socioeconomic stereotypes being taught.

"Our kids were virtual learners and as a result, we got to see into the classroom and were just appalled at what we saw," said Craig Robinson, who spoke with CBS 58 News about the lawsuit he and his wife, Kelly, filed against University School of Milwaukee. "We figured we'd make some suggestions. 'Hey, we're seeing some things that we are very uncomfortable with. You might want to take a look at this.'"

According to the lawsuit filed in Milwaukee County, the Robinsons submitted two separate complaints in January and March of 2021. The lawsuit goes on to say that as the school year progressed, the family realized that USM's expressed commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, listed on the school's website, was disingenuous.

"After some back and forth, and some 'partnering' as my wife calls it, they got to the point where they were just, like, done with us," Craig Robinson explained. "They summarily kicked our 9 and 11-year-olds out of school."

In a dismissal letter sent to the parents on June 21, 2021, USM's head of school, Steven Hancock, wrote to the family that although the school believed the two boys are "students who embody USM's portrait of a graduate," the two would not be welcome back to the school for the 2021-2022 school year.

In the letter, Hancock said that he came to the conclusion that the parents failed to fulfill their commitments as partners with USM, especially with its middle school teachers and administrators. "You neither demonstrated respect for their expertise and professionalism nor consistently related with them in a respectful, trustworthy, fair, or kind manner," the letter reads. It goes on to say, "There has been a complete breakdown in your family's trust of and respect for USM."

CBS 58 reached out to the school for comment and has yet to hear back. The school did, however, post this response on its Facebook page Tuesday:

"It's our job to show our kids you have to fight injustice when you can and always do what is right," explained Kelly Robinson. "We're trying to set a good example for our children, who have been through a lot as a result of what University School of Milwaukee did to them."

This isn't the first time the school has faced complaints regarding racism.

The lawsuit lists examples, including the use of an 'Underground Railroad' simulation, that the school continued to use into the 2010s. The practice was discontinued after multiple students of color, USM parents, Black alumni and others protested the insensitivity and lack of appropriateness of the practice.

An exhibit included in the lawsuit shows tuition for a fourth grade student at USM during the 2021-2022 school year was over $23,000 per student. The Robinson family is hopeful that the school will use some of the money at its disposal to conduct racial sensitivity training for faculty, administrators and staff and hire culturally competent faculty and administrators.

"We feel we can get our family through this," Craig Robinson said, discussing the challenges being removed from their school has presented his young boys. "It wasn't until we saw how many people hit us up once they realized that this happened to us, and that this wasn't a unique situation, this was a pattern of behavior."

The family is hopeful that the lawsuit will encourage other families to speak up and share their stories.

"We can't let this slide without doing something, because there's no way we would feel like good citizens and good community members if we allowed this to happen to families moving forward," Craig Robinson said.

"Accountability," answered Kelly Robinson, when asked about what she hopes comes from the lawsuit. "We don't want University School of Milwaukee to ever do this to anyone again."

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