Friday, July 04, 2008

Jury Finds School District Not Liable for Teacher-Student Harassment

On Wednesday, a jury in South Dakota found that the Mitchell School District is not liable for a teacher's sexual battery of one of his students. In a lawsuit filed last year, plaintiff Brittany Plamp alleged that Andrew Tate touched her in a sexual manner while the two were alone in his classroom, and that he made sexually harassing comments to her. The jury accepted that Tate's conduct amounted to a sexual battery, but did not believe that the school district was liable for his conduct. Given the legal standard for employer's vicarious liability for an employee's tort, the jury presumably determined that Tate's conduct was not reasonably foreseeable by the school district.

This case also included a Title IX claim, as we noted when we first blogged about this case last month, when the district court magistrate denied the school district's motion for summary judgment. However, the Daily Republic reports that the Title IX claim was not part of the jury's verdict, having been dismissed after the close of testimony for lack of evidentiary support. Plamp was not allowed to call witnesses to testify of past sexual misconduct by Tate that was not reported to the school district, and the only accusations of Tate's misconduct that were directed to school officials were determined to be either too remote or too vague to give rise to knowledge that Tate posed a risk to students like Plamp.