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Lawsuit: practice and MLK Day don't mix

Milton Campbell thinks Martin Luther King Day should be just like Christmas or Thanksgiving when it comes to basketball practice.

Last Friday Campbell filed a complaint in United States District Court that alleges that District 196 discriminated against his son when coach Chris Orr held Markel Campbell out of the first half of a Jan. 20 ninth grade basketball game. Markel did not attend a practice on Martin Luther King Day Jan. 20 and Campbell said he did not tell Orr his son wouldn't be at the practice.

"I am partly to blame," Campbell said. "I just felt that Martin Luther King Day was an optional day.... I felt that under the constitution it should have been allowed based on the fact that they didn't practice on Christmas, Thanksgiving or New Year's Eve.

"It should have been an option to attend based on heritage, almost as if you had a Jewish holiday or an Islamic holiday," Campbell said. "It was a day when they celebrated that's different than the majority. Do you respect that or don't you respect that? That's the issue."

Rosemount High School athletic director Mike Manning would not comment on the complaint except to say Markel's Feb. 19 absence was not a factor in his playing time the following day. The Feb. 20 game against Lakeville North was the team's only loss of the season to that point. Manning, who is also the varsity boys basketball coach at RHS, said he holds practice in the evening on Martin Luther King Day so anyone who wants to mark the occasion can do so during the day.

"If any young man ever wanted to miss a practice on Martin Luther King Day it is absolutely OK with myself and any of the coaches on my staff," Manning said.

District communication specialist Tony Taschner said the district could not comment on the complaint because it contains information about a student.

In a complaint that touches on the inauguration of President Barack Obama, the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision and the plight of early Irish immigrants to the United States Campbell argued that the decision to hold his son out of the first half of the Jan. 20 game was traumatic for Markel, who lives in Apple Valley but transferred to Rosemount after attending a summer session with Manning.

Campbell said his son came home from the game in tears.

"He's been very different since then. Much quieter. Stays in his room more," Campbell said. "I'm concerned about him."

Markel was not a starter before the Jan. 20 game but he moved into the starting lineup after a teammate was called up to the RHS varsity team full time.

In his complaint Campbell asks for the district to provide Markel a pre-paid scholarship for both college and graduate or law school.

The Town Pages was unable to speak with Markel Campbell.

It could be some time before there is any action on Campbell's complaint. According to a clerk at the U.S. Attorney's office Campbell has filed a motion asking for the court to waive filing fees. The judge will have to rule on that request before there is any other action on the complaint.