News that the Morgan Hill Unified School District has finally
settled a lawsuit should be a relief to the entire community.
News that the Morgan Hill Unified School District has finally settled a lawsuit should be a relief to the entire community. The suit was filed five years ago by six students who claim they were harassed by other students who perceived them to be gay, and whose complaints to district employees, teachers and administrators were allegedly ignored should be a relief to the entire community.
As part of the settlement, the district – without admitting any wrongdoing – must follow a strict staff and student training program aimed at preventing and properly handling incidents of harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identification. The district has steadfastly refused to detail its anti-gay harassment policy since the lawsuit was filed; now parents, students and district employees finally know a clear policy is in place so that the kind of brutal mistreatment these students say they endured will never again be tolerated on any of Morgan Hill’s public school campuses.
The settlement also requires that the school district’s self-insuring agency – of which the Gilroy Unified School District is a part – pay approximately $560,000 to the six plaintiffs and approximately $600,000 in attorneys’ fees.
It should go without saying that it is incumbent upon all district employees – from the superintendent to principals, from teachers to custodians, from school secretaries to bus drivers, from attendance clerks to yard duty personnel – to maintain a safe environment for all students.
The situations described in the lawsuit – beatings requiring hospital treatment in full view of a bus driver, pornographic images taped to lockers, anti-gay epithets scratched into locker doors, death threats – are horrific and an embarrassment for the entire community.
The ridiculous position of Superintendent Carolyn McKennan and former school board president and current Trustee Tom Kinoshita that they couldn’t reveal current district policy on gay bashing is now a moot point, because the policy for at least the next few years has been presented to a federal judge.
The court can extend that settlement if it finds the district isn’t in compliance with the terms. We’re hopeful that the training the settlement mandates for all students and any employees responsible for monitoring them will bring about a profound culture change in the district so that harassment of any student for any reason is not tolerated.
If that happens, then at least some good will have come from the appalling and shameful suffering these students say they endured and the million-dollar settlement the community is paying as a result.