Friday, May 24, 2013

Sexual Harassment Roundup

A number of courts have recently issued decisions applying Title IX in the context of sexual harassment.  Here is a summary:
  • A federal judge in California dismissed claims against a school district stemming from the harassment of two sisters who are Palestinian-American and practicing Muslims. Harassment included name-calling, which the court said was not actionable, and attempts by male students to peek under their hijab. According to the court, the complaint failed to allege in sufficient detail attempts by the students or their parents to notify authorities in the school district. Al-Rifai v. Willows Unified School Dist., 2013 WL 2102838 (E.D. Cal. May 14, 2013).
  • In Oklahoma, a judge denied a school district's motion to dismiss the claim of a former student that the school district had responded with deliberate indifference to knowledge that she was being sexually abused by the band director.  The complaint sufficiently alleged that a school official with authority over the teacher had received enough information, including a report from another student about inappropriate physical contact between the plaintiff and the teacher. Thompson v. Independent School Dist. No. I-1 of Stephens County, 2013 WL 1915058 (W.D.Okla., May 08, 2013).
  • A teacher alleged that he was fired for reporting an act of sexual abuse between students that occurred in the boys' locker room. Finding sufficient evidence from which a jury could conclude that Title IX-prohibited retaliation had occurred, the court denied the school's motion for summary judgment. First, there was sufficient evidence that the teacher reasonably believed that what he was reporting amounted to harassment in violation of Title IX, either because it was sexual in nature or because the victim could have been targeted for his gender nonconformity. Second, there was evidence to suggest that the school's stated reason for firing him -- that he had not adequately supervised the locker room during the assault -- was pretext for a retaliatory motive. At the time he was fired, the school official who fired him was not yet aware that the teacher had not been supervising the locker room during the incident.  There was also evidence to suggest that school officials feared negative publicity if it investigated the incident and punished the perpetrators. Corral v. UNO Charter School Network, Inc., 2013 WL 1855824 (N.D.Ill., May 01, 2013). 
  • A teacher prevailed at trial in a retaliation case against a school, having convinced a jury that he was fired for reporting his supervisor's sexual relationship with a student. On a motion to determine damages, the court ordered that the teacher be reinstated, and that he receive back pay with interest. Lalowski v. Corinthian Schools, Inc., 2013 WL 1788353 (N.D.Ill., April 26, 2013).
  • A student can proceed to trial against Alcorn State University, having produced sufficient evidence to survive summary judgment to support his claim that a professor gave him a failing grade after the student rebuffed his sexual advance. Chestang v. Alcorn State University, 2013 WL 1624401 (S.D.Miss., April 15, 2013)