Schools

BUSD decision appealed in BHS harassment case

Berkeley High School

The hearing to permanently bar Anthony Smith, a counselor at Berkeley High, from coming close to a student who has accused him of sexual harassment, has been delayed so the parties in the case can work on a settlement.

The temporary restraining order against Smith has been extended until October 19.

The lawyer for the student in the case has also appealed BUSD superintendent Bill Huyett’s Sept 8 decision that the actions of Smith were not “severe” or “pervasive”.

Attorney Stephen Rosenbaum, acting on behalf of the victim, now a senior at BHS, says they are “hoping to resolve things formally before October 19”. Whether this means Smith will be retained, re-assigned to an administrative post, put on authorized leave of absence or let go remains to be determined.


The appeal, dated September 19, states that:

Anthony Smith’s conduct of a sexual nature created an intimidating, hostile and/or offensive educational environment at Berkeley High School… we appeal the determination that Mr. Smith merely “engaged in inappropriate and unprofessional behavior contrary to District policy….”… At a minimum, Mr. Smith’s actions constituted “unwelcome sexual advances…and other verbal, visual or physical conduct of a sexual nature”.

It continues:

Mr. Smith should be transferred from any staff position that puts him in contact with students…we are seeking Mr. Smith’s transfer from any position that puts him in contact with (female) students, including any position that requires his presence on a school site during business hours.

Rosenbaum says he has been disappointed with the way BUSD has handled the case. “I fault the BUSD administration as much for the way they have responded as I do Mr Smith for the conduct in question,” he says.

Rosenbaum says BUSD “did not exercise good judgment in retaining an employee who engaged in this kind of conduct where their own investigation showed that the student was the more credible witness”. He adds that the students’ parents handed the district a “damage control” plan — a way of containing the details of the case and handling it discreetly — “and they just shined us on”.

Attorney Marleen Sacks, of Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo, who is representing BUSD in the case, said she could not comment on the developments. A call to Delia Ruiz, BUSD”s Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, had not been returned at the time of going to press.


The BUSD School Board meets tomorrow, September 22, and in a closed session will consider all existing and anticipated litigation relating to the school district.