Saturday, July 12, 2008

Update: Another Delay in Student-on-Teacher Harassment Case

Originally slated for a July 9 retrial, Adams v. Los Angeles Unified School District will now head to court again September 3, at the earliest. Reasons for the delay are private. However, this report can confirm that while LAUSD will certainly benefit from yet another reprieve to re-assess its defense and/or consider settlement negotiations, there was nothing political about Judge Kenneth Freeman's decision to set the new date.

The hostile environment sexual harassment case was first brought to court in 2001 by a single teacher, Janis Adams, who argued that LAUSD had enabled three years of ugly and sexualized student aggression which culminated in the public sexual harassment, libel, threats, and defamation perpetrated by a student-generated underground "newspaper," The Occasional Blow Job.

In a June 9 hearing, where Judge Freeman refused LAUSD's motion to dismiss the case, lawyers for the district did reveal a new slant in their arguments. Acknowledging that Adams "had suffered something," LAUSD attorney Linda Savitt urged the judge to consider Adams' case purely as a "workman's compensation" matter rather than a case of sexual harassment. Judge Freeman rejected this idea.

It's sad that it's taken 8 years and over $1.3 million taxpayer dollars for the district to acknowledge, finally, that Adams suffered the insufferable. But LAUSD still needs to learn that personal retribution for speaking up as a teacher-worker can certainly include a sexual component, as in Adams' case.

In fact, sexual-bullying-and-harassment-as-retaliation for speaking up or standing up to perpetrators is a common consequence in workplace cases of this kind among adults--unless an employer intervenes swiftly to address the workplace dynamics. Legal scholar and Yale professor J.M. Balkin has written on this subject at length in Columbia Law Review.

Adams' case is no exception. The key distinctions of her circumstances only heighten the problem she faced: her perpetrators were required by attendance laws to re-enter her workplace; and, as minors (albeit very old ones) her perpetrators were treated as "little darlings" by the community and by their parents, who screamed a lot about rights and very little about responsibility.

No doubt LAUSD is dreading the moment when a new jury not only considers facts of this case, but also the impressive reality that Adams has withstood the emotional and financial strain of 8-years worth of litigation and argument in order to make her voice heard.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

im having a similar situation with the school district. im a tax payer and what happened to my daughter i just cant beleive it. i cant beleive the district is sweeping under the rug a bullying problem they have.