The parents of an 8-year-old Black child who had a tent strap wrapped around his neck by two white children at a Chilmark Community Center summer camp reached a $45,000 settlement agreement with the Chilmark Town Affairs Council, one day after filing a lawsuit.
A complaint filed on Monday in Dukes County Superior Court identifies the plaintiffs with pseudonyms for the child, his parents, and the Chilmark Town Affairs Council, which operates the summer camp.
“The parties have utilized pseudonyms by agreement, in order to protect the privacy of the minor plaintiff and protect the parties from unwelcome public attention,” the complaint reads.
While the complaint does not reference anyone by name or race, the details clearly describe the July 29 incident in which two white boys wrapped a tent strap around the neck of a Black boy.
The highly publicized incident was covered by national news outlets such as the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, and others. An internal investigation from the Chilmark Town Affairs Council found no evidence of racism, but the Martha’s Vineyard Chapter of the NAACP released a 129-page report on the incident deeming the incident “racially insensitive.” That report also stressed that it could not reach conclusions about racial motivation because the NAACP was unable to interview key witnesses.
Additionally, a change.org petition was created by a group of Island activists, calling for a new and more transparent investigation into the incident.
Last week, the Town Affairs Council presented a plan to prevent a similar incident from happening again to the Chilmark select board.
In the complaint, the parents, referred to as Illinois residents James and Jane Doe, do not refer to the race of any of the children, but instead say another child enrolled in the camp “engaged in rough physical play” with their son, referred to as John Doe, “causing him to sustain personal injury and harm.”
The complaint further alleges that employees of the camp, referred to as ABC Corporation, and another camp attendee “failed to prevent the rough physical play” within a reasonable time, and that the boy “sustained additional injury loss and harm” due to the camp’s subsequent actions.
The complaint was filed by Boston-based Lawyers for Civil Rights attorney Oren Sellstrom.
A separate civil action cover sheet filed by Sellstrom claims $500,000 in damages, and says the child sustained “mental and emotional distress” due to a “neck injury.”
On Tuesday, the two parties filed a petition for the court to approve a $45,000 settlement. Of the settlement money, $11,250 will be used for attorney costs and fees, and the remaining $33,750 will be put into a Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA) Custodial Account for the boy’s benefit.
The petition states the ABC Corporation “denies that the injury, loss and harm that [plaintiffs] allege was caused by the negligence and wrongdoing of the Defendant.”
“The settlement of this case constitutes a compromised settlement of disputed legal and factual claims,” the petition reads.
The petition must still be approved by a Superior Court judge.