Assistant coach sues school district over sexual harassment claims

Posted in Sexual Harassment on April 11, 2013

Sexual harassment is wrong in any workplace, but it makes people especially uncomfortable to hear about it taking place in a school. If adult faculty or staff members are sexually harassing their colleagues, the students are also at risk.

Unfortunately, sexual harassment does sometimes occur in schools. Recently, a former assistant water polo coach at a Southern California high school filed a lawsuit against the school district. In her complaint, she said she was fired for reporting that the head coach had sexually harassed her.

The woman was hired in June 2011 and says that the sexual harassment started almost immediately. In her complaint, she alleges that the head water polo coach frequently ran his fingers through her hair and touched her breasts. He also allegedly asked her out on a date, told her that he once had an inappropriate dream about her and repeatedly told her that he loved her.

She brought her concerns to the school principal and filed a formal sexual harassment complaint in July of 2011. The district investigated and found evidence of misconduct (including hugging and kissing) but said that the head coach’s actions did not constitute sexual harassment. The coach was reprimanded but not fired.

In September, the plaintiff was fired, seemingly without reason. Also fired was a male assistant water polo coach who had similarly complained about the head coach’s actions.

The head coach was fired a month later but the school district continues to deny that the plaintiff suffered sexual harassment. The woman is seeking damages from the school district for wrongful termination and for failing to adequately respond to her sexual harassment complaints.

When an employee reports sexual harassment, it is not just the alleged harasser who risks liability. If employers know about sexual harassment and fail to address it, they can and should face the legal consequences.

Source: Rancho Santa Margarita Patch, “SVUSD Sued After Sex Harassment Complaints,” Peter Schelden, Mar. 8, 2013