Highland community college

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Highland Community College, one of the oldest institutions of higher education in the Midwest, located in Highland.

Highland Community College of northeast Kansas and the American Civil Liberties Union have “resolved” civil rights litigation involving four Black young people who have studied at the college.

The ACLU and the college released identical statements declaring the matter filed March 19 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas is over with. This development marks the end of legal complaints by Donmonic Perks, Antoine Thompson, Thomas Prater and Khaliah Hines against the college on the basis of alleged racial discrimination. A clerk with the district court confirmed by phone that the case is formally closed, and no further information is available.

The case was centered around what plaintiffs alleged to be unlawful racial discrimination with end goal of correcting a perceived imbalance. The college has emphatically denied the accusations. At the time of the lawsuit’s filing, although less than 6 percent of the Highland student body was composed of Black people, 104 out of 111 Highland Scotties in the football program were Black. These were mostly out-of-state players who aspired to reach higher levels of collegiate competition by honing their skills and acquiring playing time.

Isaiah McKissic remains one of those students today. He had no involvement in the ACLU lawsuit, but the native of Opelika, Ala., said he has concluded almost from the moment he arrived in Highland that the environment is not well suited for a Black student unaccustomed to life in an overwhelmingly white community of rural Kansas like Highland.

“It’s like I’m low-key not welcome here,” McKissic said. “Like, that’s how I feel on the inside. But, on the outside I try to be the best man I can be to, like, not let anyone else around me affect how I walk around every day.”

In the wake of the legal dispute, the Highland administration led by College President Deborah Fox has made steps to try to better integrate Black students and others who are not from the area. McKissic spoke of a recent student gathering Fox conducted in which he appreciated this outreach. Nevertheless, McKissic has resolved he may not be able to stay in Highland. He has not been as successful as a football program walk on as he had hoped, and as he stated it, work remains to be done to include Black students.

“They should address like racism instead of just like, just talking about it and just blowing it off,” McKissic said. “I feel like they should take it more seriously, because as of right now it don’t look like they’re taking it very seriously.”

Aside from their aforementioned statements, the ACLU and Highland Community College declined to comment. Highland has been represented by the law firm Lewis Brisbois of Wichita; the firm conveyed the college’s statement.

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