MOORHEAD — The family of a former Park Christian School student has filed a federal lawsuit accusing the school and current president of race discrimination.
In their suit brought in U.S. District Court, Alonzo Moton and his son, Jaedan Moton, claim former principal Chris Nellermoe discriminated against them based on their race by forcing them to enter into an academic performance contract not imposed on any other students at the school.
Alonzo Moton and Jaedan Moton are both African Americans, according to the lawsuit, which is the latest in a series of civil actions taken against the school in recent years in state and federal court.
A message seeking comment from Nellermoe — who is now the school’s president — was not returned Friday, May 22.
According to the complaint filed in the case:
Jaedan Moton applied to the school in August 2014 and he was accepted by the school to attend the 2014-2015 school year at Park Christian.
During the school year, Jaedan Moton became friends with several students at Park Christian, including Connor Kvalvog, who played on the school's basketball team with Moton.
After Jaedan Moton had been attending class for several months, his father was summoned to the school for a meeting where he was told he had to sign an academic contract if his son was to remain in school. The contract required Jaedan Moton to maintain a certain grade level in order to continue attending class.
Feeling he had no choice, Alonzo Moton signed the contract even though he was not aware of any other students being required to sign such a contract. No such contract was mandated by the student handbook, the lawsuit said.
In early 2015, Jaedon Moton was doing very well in his classes, but school officials again approached Alonzo Moton and insisted that he sign another academic progress contract for his son that appeared to be more academically demanding than the first contract.
Alonzo Moton refused to sign the second contract and subsequently the Moton family was informed by school officials that Jaedan Moton's enrollment would be terminated at the conclusion of the 2014-2015 school year, according to the suit, which alleges Nellermoe, who was the school's principal at the time, drafted the notice of termination.
The suit claims the father and son suffered unnecessary embarrassment and emotional distress as a result of the termination and seeks damages in excess of $75,000.
Park Christian and its former basketball coach, Josh Lee, were named in a wrongful death suit after a 2015 crash that killed Connor Kvalvog, 14, and his brother, Zach Kvalvog, 18, who played on the school basketball team together.
The brothers were on their way to a basketball tournament in Wisconsin when the crash happened on Interstate 94 near Dalton, Minn., in June 2015.
A Clay County District Court jury found in July 2019 that the basketball tournament was a school event, but it also found that Lee was not negligent in the brothers' deaths.
Instead, the jury said the driver of a semi was to blame for the crash, and it said the Kvalvog family was entitled to $2.5 million in damages for the loss of each son.
To this day the identity of the semi driver remains unknown.
That suit was brought by Ray Kvalvog, father of the two boys.
Late last year, a survivor of the crash that killed the Kvalvog brothers filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court.
The lawsuit accuses Park Christian of violating its policies when it allowed students to drive personal vehicles to the basketball tournament.
The survivor, Jimmy Morton, alleges in his suit that negligence on the part of the school led to permanent disfigurement that prevented him from pursuing an athletic career.
Changes in school leadership
Early this year, an interim school board was put in place at Park Christian after the entire school board resigned.
Information about the resignations was contained in an email sent to the Park Christian School community by officials with the seven area churches that oversee the school.
The email obtained by The Forum stated the resignations of board members were not connected to any "unethical, immoral, or illegal activity."
The email also said that Nellermoe submitted his resignation in January effective June 30.
Interim board members later reinstated Nellermoe's contract and it was said to be effective through school year 2021.