A student in Austin ISD sued the district alleging that she was harassed by other students based on her race while school officials turned a blind eye. The court did a painstaking review of numerous specific incidents and ruled in favor of the district with regard to 12 of them. In each of those instances, there was evidence that the district took some action to address the alleged harassment. Thus the student would not be able to show the “deliberate indifference” necessary to prevail. However, there were three other incidents for which the record did not reflect a district response, and so the court allowed the case to proceed with regard to those three incidents.
It's another part of this case that I want to bring to your attention. The plaintiff alleged that the district failed to train its staff properly. This type of claim is often made. The argument is that the district displayed “deliberate indifference” by failing to train its staff about legal issues that were sure to come up—such as allegations of harassment based on race, sex, disability or religion. In this case, however, AISD marshaled sufficient evidence to convince the court that this claim lacked merit:
Superintendent Cruz, AISD’s principals, and AISD’s central staff “had pretty extensive training and discussions” related to “training on issues surrounding race, race relations [and] bias.” Cruz further elaborated that AISD’s principals and vice-principals receive race-based discrimination and investigation training, as well as training on how to foster a “positive culture” that includes “cultural proficiency and inclusiveness.” Besides principal training, AISD has its principals train their staff in “all things pertaining to student safety,” including training related to “discrimination based upon race or nationality.”
As this case illustrates, that kind of training is important. The failure to provide it can have legal consequences.
The case is Sneed v. Austin ISD, decided by the federal court for the Western District of Texas on September 29, 2020. We found it at 2020 WL 5951508.
DAWG BONE: TRAINING MATTERS.
Tomorrow: Do you know about the Student Privacy Pledge?