Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Oklahoma Harassment Suit Survives Summary Judgment

A federal court in Oklahoma agreed that a jury should decide whether the Hilldale Independent School District is liable under Title IX for failing to protect the plaintiffs' fourteen-year-old daughter and another student from sexual abuse by the band director, Brian Giacomo. The district tried to argue that its response did not qualify as "deliberate indifference" necessary for Title IX liability to attach, but the court disagreed. A jury could reasonably conclude that the district should have conducted an investigation after the principal initially learned from another student that Giacomo was engaging in sexual conduct with students on a band trip. Instead, the district did not investigate or terminate Giacomo's employment for several more months, after the principal received copies of sexual comments Giacomo left on students My Space pages and other evidence. Noted the court, "Often, the minimum required response to avoid 'deliberate indifference' is for the school to conduct a legitimate investigation," which, a jury could conclude the district waited too long to do.

Decision is: J.M. v. Hilldale Indep. Sch. Dist., 2008 WL 2944997 (E.D. Okla. July 25, 2008).