Archive for Wednesday, March 9, 2005

Depositons nearly completed in lawsuit

March 9, 2005

Attorneys involved in a sexual discrimination lawsuit against the Tonganoxie school district should take the final deposition in the case this week.

"We should be finished with our depositions on Thursday," said Arthur Benson, attorney for a Tonganoxie man, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of his son, a former student in the district.

A trial is scheduled for Aug. 2 in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., on allegations that the school district took no action to prevent sexual harassment of the 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.

A hearing is set for Monday, during which both sides will address procedural issues that need to be settled before trial.

Benson said it's unclear whether the lawsuit would be settled without going to trial. A mediation session was held before Christmas, but that attempt at settlement proved unfruitful.

"There have been no settlement discussions during the last eight weeks or so," 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 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, in answer to 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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