Missing photo prompts queen to file lawsuit
CALIFORNIA — The San Leandro School District agreed in September through arbitration to pay San Leandro High School’s first black homecoming queen, January Cooper, $3,500 for emotional distress after omitting her photograph from the 1993 yearbook.
“I think this was an honest mistake that got blown out of proportion,” said Louis Leone, attorney for the school district. In the same yearbook the picture of the varsity football team was also left out.
Cooper’s attorney felt differently.
“This was a civil rights case,” said Taylor Culver. “They always ran the pictures of the homecoming queens, and then all of the sudden they stopped when they had their first black homecoming queen.”
“Somebody should have caught the mistake, but there was certainly no racist conspiracy,” said Leone.
The arbitrator held that the yearbook adviser, and thus the school, was responsible for the omission and owed Cooper damages for “negligent infliction of emotional distress.” The arbitrator’s decision did not mention the California student free expression law, which says students determine the content of school-sponsored publications.
reports, Spring 1996