Archive for Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Trial date set in sexual harassment suit

Former student, Tonganoxie school district required to work with mediator

September 15, 2004

A sexual discrimination lawsuit against the Tonganoxie school district is scheduled to go to trial Aug. 2, 2005, in federal court in Kansas City, Kan.

The case will be heard by Chief Judge John Lungstrum.

The suit, filed in May by the former student's father on the youth's behalf, alleges the school district took no action to prevent sexual harassment of the former student and failed to punish other students who participated in the sexual harassment.

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

Arthur Benson, Kansas City, Mo., attorney for the plaintiff, said the parties will go through a mediation process this fall, using the services of an outside neutral mediator.

The deadline for completion of the mediation process is Dec. 31, according to court documents.

"We have to have finished the mediation process by then," Benson said in an interview Monday. "There is no requirement that the recommendations of the mediator be adopted by either party."

Benson said the mediator will be James Margolin, a Kansas City, Mo., attorney, who provides mediation services full time.

"He was selected by agreement from the parties," Benson said.

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 subjected to countless acts of sexual harassment, most based on a belief that (the plaintiff) was a homosexual and/or implied or contained innuendo to the effect that he was a homosexual," and that "most were known or reported to school district officials."
The defendant's reply to this allegation reads as follows:
"Defendants do admit that one student did complain occasionally, approximately annually, that he had been called names. On each occasion, defendants took appropriate action to investigate and address such complaints. Defendants deny that plaintiff was subjected to 'sexual harassment.'"
In response to the plaintiff's statement in the lawsuit, both of the former student's parents informed school officials and board members of the sexual harassment. The lawsuit states the parents' actions included making numerous telephone calls and trips to the school, attending a board meeting, and sending a certified letter to Erickson.
"None of their efforts to get assistance in stopping the sexual harassment were successful," the lawsuit states.
In the school district's reply to the lawsuit, it stated that because the lawsuit fails to identify the plaintiff, the allegations could not be confirmed or denied. For that reason, according to the reply, the defendants denied the allegations.

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