Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sexual Harassment Litigation Roundup

It's time for another roundup of recent decision in Title IX sexual harassment cases:

A federal judge in Ohio refused to grant summary judgment to the Southwestern City School District so that a jury can resolve disputed facts about whether district officials knew and took proper action to protect a student from being sexually assaulted by another student who had assaulted her on the school bus earlier that year. The jury will also get to decide whether the plaintiff was suspended in retaliation for speaking out against the ongoing harassment. Evans v. Bd. of Educ, Southwestern Sch. Dist., 2010 WL 2889100 (S. D. Ohio July 20, 2010).

Another judge in the same district dismissed claims against the school district that, like the prior case, also involved sexual assault on the school bus. The court found that district officials responded appropriately when they learned that a 17-year-old high school student forced a 12-year-old seventh grader to perform oral sex on the bus, by suspended both students and assigning the perpetrator to another bus. Nor could the district be liable for the taunting and teasing the victim received at school after the incident, which the court said did not rise to the "severe and pervasive" standard required by law. However, the court ruled that the plaintiff could proceed with her claim that the school district's decision to suspend the plaintiff in response to another matter was actually retaliation for her complaints about the sexual harassment. Marcum ex rel. C.V. v. Board of Educ. of Bloom-Carroll Local School Dist., 2010 WL 2927235 (S.D.Ohio Jul 23, 2010).

Last, a federal judge in California granted a motion by individual teachers to dismiss claims that they knew about and failed to report sexually harassment that another teacher was perpetrating on a student. The court dismissed the claims against these teachers that were based on Title IX because the statute only supports institutional, not individual liability (The plaintiff's Title IX claim against the school district was not included in this motion to dismiss, and thus was not addressed this decision.) However, with respect to two of the teachers, the court found that the plaintiff could proceed with her claims that their failure to respond to the perpetrating teacher's sexual harassment violated the Equal Protection Clause, which does allow for individual liability. Similarly, the court acknowledged that the perpetrating teacher could have violated the plaintiff's Equal Protection rights as well, and gave her the chance to amend her complaint to include an allegation that the teacher's harassing treatment singled the plaintiff out because of her sex. Dyess ex rel. Dyess v. Tehachapi Unified School Dist., 2010 WL 3154013 and 2010 WL 3154083 (E.D.Cal. Aug 06, 2010).