Like most school districts in Texas, Victoria ISD has a policy that permits employees to have electronic communication with students. A parent in Victoria alleged that it was that policy that caused the sexual harassment of her daughter. But the court dismissed the suit, making the obvious point: it wasn’t the policy of the district that caused the harassment. It was an employee’s violation of that policy.
Victoria ISD had adopted the same version of TASB Policy DH(Local) that many districts have adopted. It permits electronic communication with the kids, but only about school matters. Moreover, the policy notifies employees that they could be fired for improper use of e-communication, such as any kind of sexual harassment, or an effort to create a romantic relationship or any other “inappropriate social relationship.” In other words, there was nothing wrong with Victoria’s policy.
Jesse Earl Holmes, an athletic trainer at Victoria East High School, violated the policy. When reports of this reached the school, swift action followed. Mr. Holmes met with the superintendent on October 11, 2012 and resigned. He was later convicted of sexual assault of a minor and sentenced to prison for 15 years.
This lawsuit was not against Mr. Holmes. It was against the district. And that’s why the lawyer had to try to make a connection between the policy and the student’s injury. School districts are not liable in court just because they employed someone who committed a crime. They are liable if they have a policy that directly caused harm. That was certainly not the case here.
The case is Brown v. Victoria ISD, decided by the federal district court for the Southern District of Texas on May 12, 2016. We found it at 2016 WL 2758036.
DAWG BONE: MAKE SURE YOUR EMPLOYEES UNDERSTAND AND COMPLY WITH DH LOCAL!
File this one under: LIABILITY
Tomorrow: Toolbox Tuesday!!