Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Settlement Ends Harassment Investigation Against Minnesota School District

This week, the Departments of Education and Justice announced that the Anoka-Hennepin school district in Minnesota will agree to a settlement resolving the Departments' joint investigation of claims that the district's failure to investigate claims of gender-based harassment violates Title IX. The settlement also terminates litigation entered into on behalf of six student plaintiffs who have suffered harassment at the hands of their peers because they were gay, perceived gay, or have gay parents. In recent years, four students at Anoka-Hennepin have committed suicide in response to bullying.

Justice officials are calling the settlement "the most comprehensive and detailed school harassment agreement in the history of the Department of Justice." It requires the school district to identify and quickly address "hot spots" from which multiple complaints of harassment originate. Other provisions of the agreement require the school district to:
  • Retain an expert consultant in the area of sex-based harassment to review the district’s policies and procedures concerning harassment;
  • Develop and implement a comprehensive plan for preventing and addressing student-on-student sex-based harassment at the middle and high schools;
  • Enhance and improve its training of faculty, staff and students on sex-based harassment;
  • Hire or appoint a Title IX coordinator to ensure proper implementation of the district’s sex-based harassment policies and procedures and district compliance with Title IX;
  • Retain an expert consultant in the area of mental health to address the needs of students who are victims of harassment;
  • Provide other opportunities for student involvement and input into the district’s ongoing anti-harassment efforts;
  • Improve its system for maintaining records of investigations and responding to allegations of harassment;
  • Conduct ongoing monitoring and evaluations of its anti-harassment efforts; and
  • Submit annual compliance reports to the departments.
The consent decree will remain in place for five years.