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Lesbian teacher settles bias suit with Calif. school district

California legal ruling

A California school district has settled an employment discrimination claim filed by a lesbian teacher for $850,000.

Teacher Julia Frost and Hesperia Unified School District reached the settlement agreement, according to a statement by Lambda Legal on Thursday. Hesperia Unified School District in San Bernardino County, California, previously agreed to revise its policies to require regular nondiscrimination training, clarify its discrimination complaint procedures and make other improvements, according to the statement.

“This lawsuit forced Hesperia to establish desperately needed policies protecting the rights of LGBT students and teachers,” Dan Stormer, partner with Hadsell Stormer Renick LLP and co-counsel, said in the statement. “It also compensates her for the harm HUSD caused to her career.”

Lambda Legal filed Frost v. Hesperia Unified School District in November 2013, in San Bernardino Superior Court presenting 10 legal claims under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act and Education Code concerning the rights of lesbian, gay, and gender nonconforming teachers and students. The dispute first came to public attention in March of 2013, when the ACLU of Southern California sent a letter to Hesperia USD on behalf of the students in the Sultana High School Gay-Straight Alliance describing pervasive discrimination and harassment.

In 2015, while denying such an environment existed, the school district implemented a broad array of policy changes, including requirements for awareness training for faculty and staff, according to the Lambda Legal statement.

The school district “strongly denies” Ms. Frost’s allegations of discrimination, harassment and related claims, but settling the case was a “prudent financial decision in light of the protracted litigation effort by this former employee,” the district said in an emailed statement. 

“While Ms. Frost has not yet produced any compelling evidence to support any of her claims, one can never predict what might happen at trial,” the school district said in the statement. “The settlement will eliminate the potential risk of a huge plaintiff’s attorney fee award if the District didn’t win on all counts. The parties also mutually agreed that the settlement is not an admission of guilt or an acceptance of liability for any alleged wrongdoing by the District. The settlement is strictly a financial settlement with Ms. Frost and her legal teams. There are no policy reforms included in the settlement and the District maintains its policies and practices on non-discrimination are fully sufficient and appropriate to protect the rights of students and staff.”





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