FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The family of a Har-Ber High basketball player filed a civil rights complaint against Springdale Public Schools. The complaint accused the girls basketball coach of discrimination.
Kania Starks is a senior at Har-Ber, and she said her coach, Kimberly Jenkins, discriminated against her and suspended her from the team when called out.
“Honestly, I just feel like I’m being treated unfairly,” Starks said.
The complaint lists the reasons for discrimination as, “race or color, disability, retaliation because you filed a complaint or asserted your rights.” It said Starks has diagnosed anxiety that can be directly attributed to Jenkins.
According to the complaint, Jenkins told Starks to, “add a little caramel,” when describing a basketball move. Starks thinks it was a racially-motivated comment referencing her skin color. The complaint also said the coach implemented a natural hair policy targeting people of color.
“The natural hair policy, I felt like that had nothing to do with basketball,” Starks said. “I don’t think your hair has anything to do with anything, honestly.”
The Starks family said it’s met with school administration, but decision makers haven’t addressed the issue. Springdale Schools declined to comment, citing the pending legal matters.
In a note sent to team parents, the coaching staff discussed the suspension, indicating it came down to the Starks’ attitude.
“Kania needs to understand that those expectations have to be met and she needs to make changes,” the note said. “She needs to decide whether or not she can perform within this culture both on and off the court.”
The note added Starks can return if she follows a “plan for success.”
“When and if Kania decides she can meet our expectations, she can reach out to one of our administrators to set up the meeting and we can go from there,” the note said.
Starks said she’s followed her coach’s directives and doesn’t know how she failed to meet expectations.
“She told me that as a senior, I’m not doing enough or good enough for me to play basketball for her,” Starks said. “I had no clue what she was talking about.”
Starks, a talented basketball player, said she continues to train on her own and chats with college coaches. She said she’s tried to be honest with them about what’s happened and knows some are wary of her suspension.
“I just hope they see me as a talented athlete, and they don’t think I got suspended for some bad reason or something like that,” Starks said.
B.C. Pickett is the attorney representing the Starks family. He filed the civil rights complaint.
“The [Har-Ber] administration at every turn has denied her equal rights,” Pickett said. “Her basketball future in high school’s already been ruined, but we’re trying to make sure this never happens to anyone else.”
Starks said she doesn’t think she’ll ever step foot on the court for Har-Ber again. She hopes this complaint will prompt administrators to discipline Jenkins and force her to apologize.
“I just want everyone to be treated fairly and equally, and I feel like it’s not that way at all,” Starks said.