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Ye threatened to put Donda Academy students in 'cages,' suit alleges

An ex-employee of Yeezy and Donda Academy says Kanye West "doubled down" on previously stated antisemitic rhetoric in front of staff and students.
Ye threatened to put Donda Academy students in 'cages,' suit alleges
Posted at 3:27 PM, Apr 03, 2024

A former Yeezy and Donda Academy employee is accusing Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, of repeatedly spreading antisemitic and homophobic conspiracies, praising Adolf Hitler and threatening to create a "jail" at his school to "cage" students in yet another lawsuit involving the rapper's now-defunct school.

The new suit, filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court and obtained by Scripps News, details Trevor Phillips' nine-month employment under Ye beginning in November 2022, weeks after the musician's public antisemitic remarks led him to lose many of his music and business partnerships.

Though hired to work for Yeezy, Phillips states Ye soon pivoted him to work for Donda Academy, the musician's private K-12 school in Southern California. The plaintiff, who is Black, says it was "immediately apparent" that Ye "treated the Black staff considerably worse than white employees" and would "scream and berate Black employees, while never even as much raising his tone at the white staff."

The plaintiff also alleges that despite being "on call 24/7," employees temporarily went unpaid for weeks due to Yeezy's accounts being initially frozen, while Ye "gloated" to staff about spending $2 million of the school's budget on a trip to Paris.

Phillips also states he witnessed Ye "double down" and repeat his "dangerous rhetoric" throughout his employment, including making alleged comments like "the Jews are out to get me" and "the Jews are stealing my money," according to the lawsuit.

During one meeting, Phillips alleges Ye told two school children that "he wanted them to shave their heads and that he intended to put a jail at the school — and that they could be locked in cages," the lawsuit states.

SEE MORE: Ye apologizes in Hebrew to Jewish community for antisemitic 'outburst'

At a later private meeting between Ye and Phillips at Malibu's Nobu Hotel, the plaintiff claims the rapper turned "The Batman" on the TV and muted the volume. Then, Phillips alleges Ye erupted in an "unprovoked and bigoted rant attacking Jewish people" that included calling Hitler "great" and an "innovator," stating the Holocaust "was fake" and alleging "Jews are working with Adidas to freeze up my money to try and make me broke," according to the lawsuit.

Phillips claims Ye later pretended to masturbate while discussing his intimate life, then began threatening LGBTQ+ people, saying he would come for the community "next" and telling Phillips they "are not true Christians. And gay people are controlled by Bill Gates so that they don't have children for population control." 

The plaintiff also included a screenshot of a text message Ye allegedly sent him that states, "I am on some complete Hitler level stuff. Minus the gas chambers," per the lawsuit.

Phillips' other allegations include that Ye told staff no one "could be fat — otherwise he would fire them" and that he instructed staff to build a new Donda Academy on the lot of a "decrepit church" within weeks without gaining any permits. Phillips says he was demoted when he shared his concerns about the project.

The final event detailed in the lawsuit occurred in May of 2023, when Phillips claims Ye berated him in front of staff and students during a "Sunday Service" — a "pseudo-religious sermon" in which the rapper and a choir play gospel music. The plaintiff alleges the rapper told him he was fired and physically threatened him before briefly going on his phone. Then, Phillips states Ye imitated the "celebratory dance of Mario from the famous video game Super Mario Brothers," "jumped up with punching one fist in the air, while he said 'I'm gonna give you one more chance. Another life!'"

The "chance" was for Phillips to go to a farm property Ye was considering purchasing, but after the plaintiff scouted it, he alleges Ye fired him, according to the suit. Donda Academy's principal later apologized for Ye's actions, telling Phillips to "brush it under the rug." He then remained as an employee until August 2023, when the school shut down as part of a rebranding plan. 

SEE MORE: Adidas donating $150 million from Yeezy shoe sales to anti-hate groups

Phillips is seeking $35,000 and a jury trial under charges of discrimination, hostile work environment, harassment, wrongful termination and more. He also wants to get injunctive relief to prohibit the defendants from owning and operating any educational institution for minors in California.

"By filing this lawsuit, we hope our injured clients' rights are vindicated, and that the famous artist Mr. West understands that his messages — which we alleged preach discrimination, antisemitism and Hitler-love — have no place in the world," Phillips' lead attorney, Carney R. Shegerian, said in a statement to Scripps News.

Phillips now joins multiple other former employees in pursuing legal action against Donda Academy, with former teachers and an ex-assistant principal also claiming discrimination and wrongful termination. One lawsuit also details strange rules that were in place at the school, including that no chairs and tables were allowed.

Though requests for comment sent to Donda Academy and Ye have not garnered a reply, the rapper's lawyer said in previous court documents that the claims against Ye and the school were "meritless" and an attempt to "garner press attention and the resulting settlement pressure that comes with it."

"None of it is true and the allegations do a disservice to the Donda Academy's current staff and students and their parents who will attest to their positive experience," attorney Gregory Suhr said in a filing.


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