Blake Broadnax

The family of former Edgewood High School student Blake Broadnax is dropping their lawsuit against the school over a series of racially-charged incidents, saying the prospect of reliving the incidents through court proceedings has caused Broadnax, now in his first year at Loyola University in Chicago, anxiety and symptoms of depression.

“I got a text from him at 2 or 3 in the morning,” said Broadnax’s father, Keith. “He was in tears. He was starting to have some of the anxiety that he had at Edgewood. He’s doing really, really well right now and he didn’t want to go back into that dark corner again.”

Additionally, Edgewood requested the names of several other students who Broadnax had alleged were victims of racial discrimination at the school — names Broadnax didn’t want to reveal for fear of retaliation against those students.

“Those kids feel like Blake does now,” he said. “They don’t want to think about it.”

Edgewood High School
Edgewood High School

“(Edgewood) knew those kids were afraid,” said Stan Davis, the attorney representing the Broadnax family. “They put Blake in a very difficult position. The fear and intimidation part of this continues. That’s unfortunate and frustrating, but that’s what happens when you file a lawsuit.”

Besides all of that, Broadnax is doing very well at Loyola and is ready to move on, according to his father.

“Unbelievable. It is unbelievable. He’s exceeding expectations,” Keith Broadnax said. “He has a path. He is in international business and relations. He has a path laid out. He wants to be able to go into other countries, look at the economic systems, and provide opportunities for underprivileged families in those communities.”

Davis said Blake Broadnax improved from a 2.6 GPA at Edgewood to a 3.6 at Hamilton

Blake Broadnax senior photos, when he was a student at Hamilton Southeastern in Indiana.
Blake Broadnax senior photos, when he was a student at Hamilton Southeastern in Indiana.

Southeastern High School in Indianapolis, where he transferred after leaving Edgewood during his junior year.

“(Hamiloton Southeastern staff and students) were very supportive, understanding what he went through,” Keith Broadnax said. “What the kids were saying and how the administration reacted were day and night (compared with Edgewood). If there was an incident, the administration was on top of it. If there was an issue that came up, they were on it. Edgewood ignored it. Or were very passive, saying, ‘don’t do it again.’”

“The first time I talked to Blake (after he transferred to Hamilton Southeastern), he had been there maybe three weeks, he hadn’t heard anyone use the n-word in his whole time there,” said Davis. “For it to be a remarkable thing to not hear the n-word is very telling.”

The n-word was a common occurrence at Edgewood, according to court documents.

The Broadnax family’s lawsuit outlines dozens of aggressive uses of the n-word in reference to Blake Broadnax, in both speech and writing, as well as Blake being referred to as a “slave” and as less intelligent than his white peers. And despite being aware of, and claiming to be upset by, many of the incidents, Edgewood officials did not adequately respond and did not take adequate measures to stop the incidents from continuing, according to the lawsuit.

Edgewood denies knowledge of many of the incidents, but emails from staff indicated that administrators did not doubt Blake’s accounts of racial harassment.

“We all agree in Blake’s case (the Edgewood community) is not where we want it to be,” wrote Edgewood High School President Michael Elliott an email to Blake’s parents in December 2013. “This will stop one way or another.”

Neither Elliott nor Principal Bob Growney responded to requests for comment.

Keith Broadnax also cited a lack of support from the civil rights community in Madison as influential in his decision to drop the lawsuit.

“We just didn’t get the support that we thought we’d get from the civil rights organizations,” he said. “I don’t want to come out with individual names, but that’s how we felt. That they didn’t have our back. They had numerous meetings with Edgewood. I think they were working on something, but we were rarely informed. They met with Edgewood more than they met with us.”

Keith Broadnax said he’s comfortable with the decision to drop the lawsuit, based on his son’s wishes, but isn’t exactly happy about it.

“That school should have been sued a long time ago,” he said. “You have generations of students who have gotten away with that behavior for years, and have been taught that this is acceptable. For us as parents, beating Edgewood was not worth losing our son or seeing him go back to that depression. It never goes away. Even though we are dropping the lawsuit, my wife and I are still hurting.”