Like many terms used in the law, “an appropriate person” has a special meaning, and it has nothing to do with your table manners. The term comes from a Texas case that made its way all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court—Gebser v. Lago Vista ISD. In that case, the Court outlined the circumstances that would make a school district liable for something that one of its employees, or students did. Gebser involved teacher-to-student harassment. The issue was: should Lago Vista ISD be held responsible? Under what circumstances?
The Court held that LVISD would not be liable unless “an appropriate person” had actual knowledge of what was going on, and responded with “deliberate indifference.” What makes a person an “appropriate person”? Generally, it means that you are vested with the authority to take corrective action.
So if the harassment is being done by a teacher, the principal would probably qualify as an “appropriate person.” As the teacher’s boss, the principal has the power to take corrective action. If the harassment is done by the principal, the superintendent would be viewed as “an appropriate person.”
The Office for Civil Rights has a very expansive notion of who is “appropriate” although they use the word “responsible.” The bottom line on this is that if someone employed by the school district has the power to take action to address sexual harassment that is going on in the school setting, that person is likely to be considered “appropriate.” Make sure you are providing training for everyone about these responsibilities.
Here’s your Dawg Bone for the day:
DAWG BONE: MAKE SURE THAT ALL OF THE “APPROPRIATE PERSONS” ARE DOING THE RIGHT THING.