Archive for Wednesday, December 29, 2004

No settlement in mediation of school suit

December 29, 2004

An attempt failed last week at settling a sexual discrimination lawsuit against the Tonganoxie school district.

Last Wednesday, the parties in the lawsuit participated in court-ordered mediation in the offices of a Kansas City, Mo., attorney-mediator.

"It did not result in settlement," said Arthur Benson, an attorney representing a former Tonganoxie student whose father filed the lawsuit on the student's behalf.

Benson said the two sides spent about half a day in the mediation process, which is required in federal lawsuits.

Now that mediation has failed, both sides will continue taking depositions and gathering facts in the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court.

Benson said the final day for discovery will be the end of February. And trial is scheduled for Aug. 2 in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan.

The lawsuit, filed seven months ago, alleges that the school district took no action to prevent sexual harassment of the former student and that the district failed to punish students who participated in the sexual harassment.

The suit also alleges the harassment prevented the student access to an education.

Defendants in the suit include school board members Rick Lamb, Darlyn Hansen, Bob DeHoff, Dick Dean, Leana Leslie, Ron Moore and Kay Smith; district superintendent Richard Erickson; junior high principal Steve Woolf; former high school principal Mike Bogart; and high school vice principal Brent Smith.

The lawsuit alleges that from February 2000 to December 2003, the former student was sexually harassed because his harassers believed he was homosexual. In addition, the lawsuit said that the harassment contained references to homosexuality. Most incidents of harassment, the suit said, were either reported to school officials -- or officials were aware of the incidents.

School district officials have said, as part of the lawsuit, that one student did complain "approximately annually" that he'd been called names. And the officials said they took appropriate action to investigate and address the complaints.

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