MINOOKA, Ill. (CBS) -- Racial slurs, threats, anti-Semitic symbols – a former Minooka Community High School student says hate crimes are rampant in classrooms there.
That student told CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov Monday night why he is now suing the school district.
"This moment is like fight or flight," said Stanley Fabian.
Fabian, 19, was flashing back a year to his senior psychology class at Minooka Community High School in the village of Minooka southwest of Chicago. He said a white student brought in a large cookie.
"When I jokingly reached for it - he was at the front of the class - he turned around and said, 'If you touch that cookie cake, I'm going to lynch you,'" Fabian said. "'I didn't even know how to respond. It was like a deer-in-the-headlights kind of moment."
It was also a watershed moment for Fabian, and for his mother, who went right to Minooka Community High School District 111's administration.
"It was apparent from day one that this was not something that they were really going to treat seriously," said Fabian's mother, TeSaxton Washington.
Washington said the student was eventually suspended. But it was just the beginning of a now-legal fight to change a culture of what they claim is systemic racism at the high school, which they hope this lawsuit will address.
"For four years, I've heard multiple slurs being thrown around towards African-American students, Mexican students," said Fabian said.
Fabian said he was afraid to speak up while in high school. His mother said she became supportive of a lawsuit after talking to other families who had also been on the receiving end of racial slurs at school.
"This was not just his story," Washington said. "In fact, this is something that has been going on for at least five decades."
Washington points to the high school's 1987 "Slave Days" activities, which included lynching and slave trade simulations, as examples of an entrenched racist culture that she claims former and current school administrators don't take seriously.
Fabian's attorney, Gene Hollander, said change is the goal.
"One has to be training, reporting, discipline," Hollander said.
"The students should feel protected," Fabian said. "As of right now I don't think the majority of minority students feel protected."
A Minooka Community High School representative said the district was not yet aware of the lawsuit, adding it is the district's practice not to comment on pending litigation anyway.
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