Courts dismiss 7th grader's suit over sexual harassment | TCTA
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Courts dismiss 7th grader's suit over sexual harassment

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A seventh grader sued her school district, claiming that it had failed to protect her from sexual harassment from other students. The student claimed that she was subjected to harassment in the form of "Slap Butt Friday" and "Titty Twister Thursday." She further alleged that two male students wrote her an inappropriate note in which they stated that they wanted to grab her "booty cheeks" and that one of the students who wrote the note had called her a "slut," grabbed her by the hips and slammed his groin into her and announced that "if you want to have sex" with her "she'll do it." Finally, she alleged that she was called a "snitch" and "ho" by female students. The school district requested that the lawsuit be dismissed, and the district court granted that request. The student appealed to the Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals began its analysis by stating that a school district can only be liable for student-on-student sexual harassment if the district's response to known harassment was clearly unreasonable under the circumstances. Under this standard, it is not enough that any employee knew about the harassment; it must be someone who has the authority to rectify the problem. The court also noted that negligent delays, botched investigations of complaints or responses that could have been improved upon do not rise to this level.

In light of the above standard, the Court of Appeals examined the district's actions, noting that the assistant principal was made aware of "Slap Butt Friday." While investigating the incident, the assistant principal learned that the student herself had been "running around slapping everyone on the butt in the locker room" that day and the previous Friday. The assistant principal informed the student's parent of her finding and encouraged the student to report further instances of "Slap Butt Friday." The court also noted that after the note-writing incident, a male student was given detention, instructed by school district administration to stay away from the girl and was warned that further complaints of harassment would result in additional disciplinary action.

The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court's dismissal of the lawsuit, finding that the school district investigated the student's concerns and imposed discipline where claims were substantiated. It stated that "courts should refrain from second-guessing the disciplinary decisions made by school administrators" and concluded that they could not say that the school district responded in a way that was clearly unreasonable to the report of harassment.