Schools

BHS harassment case settles, leaves open questions

Berkeley High School

An out-of-court settlement was reached on Monday this week on the restraining order against Anthony Smith, a counselor at Berkeley High School, accused of sexually harassing a 16-year-old female student. However, Stephen Rosenbaum, the lawyer for the student, is still hoping the Berkeley Unified School District will revisit its findings on the case so far, and take action to remove Smith from the campus. Rosenbaum says he is considering issuing a lawsuit against BUSD to that effect.

Smith voluntarily agreed to adhere to the terms set out in the restraining order even though that order is no longer in effect. His lawyer, Kimberly Fanady, said Smith will stay at least 50 yards away from the student and have no form of communication with her. This came after Alameda County Superior Court Judge Taylor Culver gave Smith and Rosenbaum a week to settle the case on October 19.

Smith was accused last year of sexually harassing a student, including asking her inappropriate questions, hugging and caressing her and spanking her buttocks as she left the room. Smith has denied the accusations. In a July 12 letter to the student’s parents from BUSD’s Interim Director of Personnel Services Cliff Wong, the school district said it had found Smith “engaged in inappropriate and unprofessional behavior contrary to District policy”. The letter further stated that the district would be “taking appropriate personnel action” against Smith.

Reacting to the letter, Rosenbaum appealed what he called the  BUSD Superintendent’s denial that Smith had engaged in harassment. He did so in a letter dated September 19 and, on October 9, he sent another letter to BUSD reminding it of the appeal. Rosenbaum says on Wednesday of this week he received an email from BUSD Superintendent Bill Hewitt acknowledging the appeal and confirming it was under review. All questions on the case are being referred to Delia Ruiz, the BUSD’s assistant superintendent for human resources


Ruiz has told Berkeleyside she is unable to comment on the case. Smith has declined to talk to Berkeleyside. Rosenbaum told Berkeleyside he is exploring his next options.