Michelle Obama’s brother, his wife sue Milwaukee private school, alleging racial bias

Craig and Kelly Robinson said the University School of Milwaukee retaliated against them by unfairly expelling their two sons.

Craig Robinson and his wife, Kelly Robinson, arrive at a state dinner in Washington on Aug. 2, 2016.Yuri Gripas / AFP via Getty Images file (Copyright 2022 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.)

MILWAUKEE, Wis. – Michelle Obama’s brother and sister-in-law sued their children’s former private school in Milwaukee, alleging that the two boys were unfairly kicked out after they raised concerns about racial bias.

Craig and Kelly Robinson enrolled their sons, who were 11 and 9, at the University School of Milwaukee, or USM, in 2016. School officials expelled them last year, claiming in letters that the Robinsons “had violated the School’s Common Trust and had not fulfilled their commitments as partners with USM,” according to a lawsuit filed Monday in a Milwaukee County circuit court.

Craig Robinson and his wife, Kelly Robinson, arrive at a state dinner in Washington on Aug. 2, 2016.Yuri Gripas / AFP via Getty Images file (Copyright 2022 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.)

But the Robinsons say the school retaliated against them because they verbally complained and filed bias incident reports about offensive classwork and assignments, the lawsuit states.

“It just seems to be unfair that they retaliated against a 9- and 11-year-old for something we brought up to help the school,” Craig Robinson told NBC affiliate WTMJ of Milwaukee.

The couple said they chose USM because it ranked as the best school in the region and marketed itself as valuing diversity. However, in November 2020, they told faculty and staff members that some of the language in various worksheets and projects “was offensive to persons of color, persons with disabilities, indigenous Americans, and other underrepresented students,” the suit says.

In January 2021, Kelly Robinson submitted a bias incident report through the school’s Bias Incident Reporting System about classwork that included “harmful content toward underrepresented students,” according to the lawsuit. She filed a second report in March 2021 about “similarly concerning language” in a separate assignment.

The lawsuit says the school acknowledged that it received the report but took no further action.

The Robinsons say they were shocked when they received a letter in April 2021 informing them their 11-year-old son had been denied re-enrollment, according to the lawsuit. In June, they received a second letter telling them their 9-year-old had also been removed.

In both letters, which were obtained by NBC News, Steven Hancock, the head of school, accused the Robinsons of failing to fulfill “the foregoing commitments as partners with USM” and engaging in “disrespectful” conversations about staff members and teachers.