Misinterpretation of school policy by a staff member can have serious repercussions. A former assistant principal in a district in Washington testified that what happened to a student with cognitive disabilities in the Independent Learning Center classroom could not be “sexual harassment” because the student did not object to it. Based at least in part on that statement a jury concluded that it was district policy to require students to speak up and object about sexual harassment. The plaintiff was a student who was incapable of doing that, due to her cognitive disabilities. After an 11-day trial, the jury rendered a verdict of $500,000 against the school district based on discrimination based on disability.
Our firm’s Toolbox Training is all about providing a safe environment for all students while complying with the law. The main law we focus on is IDEA, but Title IX is equally important. Policies or interpretations of policies that apply a different standard to students with disabilities may be found to violate Title IX, Section 504, the ADA, or the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.
Today’s case is Berg v. Bethel School District, decided by the federal court for the Western District of Washington on March 16, 2022. It’s published in Special Ed Connection at 80 IDELR 222.
DAWG BONE: IT’S SEXUAL HARASSMENT IF IT IS UNWELCOME AND OBJECTIVELY OFFENSIVE EVEN IF THE STUDENT DID NOT OBJECT.
Got a question or comment for the Dawg? Let me hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.