July 28, 2016

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Three black women's basketball players allege in a lawsuit that a small southwest Missouri college treated them differently than white students before expelling them without justification.

Breauna Carter, Amalia Harris and Dajanae Wilson, all of Kansas City, filed the lawsuit Tuesday against Cottey College, a women's college of about 350 residential students in Nevada, which had offered them all athletic and academic scholarships for the 2015-16 school year. The lawsuit contends the school violated the women's civil rights by creating a racially hostile environment, selectively enforcing its policies and procedures, and retaliating against them for complaining.

The women allege that during the 2015-16 basketball season, Stephanie Beason, athletic director and women's basketball coach, treated them differently than the white players, punished them more severely than white players, ridiculed them and did not give them equal playing time.

The suit claimed Beason referred to the black players as the ''Black Attack,'' and often divided the team into black and white players during practice. But she then wouldn't play many of the black players at the same time during games, even though seven of the 13 players were black, according to the lawsuit.

Mari Ann Phillips, vice president of student life, expelled the three students after one semester, saying they had ''repeatedly engaged in behavior that has been disruptive and intimidating and that has created an unreasonable risk or danger to the safety of other students.'' No one at the school ever presented any evidence to back up that complaint, according to the lawsuit.

The school violated its own policies and procedures throughout the semester by offering the players no chance to appeal or contest the decision, according to the lawsuit.

After their expulsions, the college withheld the women's transcripts, making it impossible for them to enroll in another school the next semester. The women are now trying to enroll at other institutions for this fall, said their attorney, Daniel Zmijewski.

Cottey officials did not immediately respond Thursday to a phone call and email seeking comment. The non-denominational college was founded in 1884 by Virginia Alice Cottey, who bequeathed it in 1927 to the P.E.O. Sisterhood, a philanthropic educational organization that supports women's education.

The lawsuit comes about four months after Iowa State women's basketball coach Bill Fennelly was sued by a former player for race discrimination and retaliation. Nikki Moody, who is black, sued Fennelly in April, saying the coach demeaned, harassed and discriminated against her while she played point guard for the Cyclones from 2012-15. She also sued the university and the state of Iowa.

Fennelly has declined to address her allegations, except to deny that he's not ''the person I've been accused of being.'' Iowa State's administration has said the university's Office of Equal Opportunity could not substantiate Moody's complaints of racial discrimination.

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