Monday, November 12, 2007

Lawsuit Challenging Substitute Teacher's Harassment Survives Summary Judgment

In May we blogged about a decision by a federal court judge in Alabama, holding that the parent of a child sexually abused by a substitute, Terry Wright, could sue the school district under Title IX. The superintendent knew about Wright's earlier inappropriate behavior in a different classroom and did not immediately fire him, choosing instead to leave his name off the sub list for the following month. This decision resulted in Wright's being called to sub again, which was the setting for his sexual contact with six students, including the plaintiff.

Two other children who were abused that day also sued the school district, and recently, a different federal court judge reached the same conclusion as the judge in the first case: no summary judgment for the school district. The superintendent was apparently concerned that the first incident would result in bad publicity, and so he tried to remove Wright quietly and without disclosing the reason for his concern. Rather than spreading an effective alarm about Wright, he simply removed him from the sub list for the following month. This constituted deliberate indifference to the safety of students, as it put them at risk for encountering Wright again before month's end, which is what happened to the plaintiffs.

Now that the school district has failed twice in its efforts to get these lawsuits dismissed, it shouldn't be long before it offers these plaintiffs -- and any others who might have filed a lawsuit over this -- a settlement to avoid having to fight a loosing battle at trial.

Decision is: Doe v. Autauga County Bd. of Educ., 2007 WL 3287 (M.D. Ala. Nov. 7, 2007).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

School districts have deep pockets and think that they are above the law