Update, 4:40 pm: In a release issued at 4:16 pm, BUSD Superintendent Bill Huyett states: “As a school district, we take this kind of allegation very seriously. We do a thorough investigation in all cases, and we take the appropriate action when it is warranted, and furthermore, the school district does not admit to any wrongdoing in this case.” The statement also confirms Berkeleyside’s reporting that the case has not yet been settled.
Original story: The sexual harassment lawsuit against Berkeley High School counselor Anthony Smith is close to reaching a settlement, subject to the approval of the Berkeley school district board.
According to a story today in the Chronicle, the district has been ordered to pay $57,500 to the family of a former BHS student, known as Lilah R. (a pseudonym) who filed suit against Smith for inappropriate touching and suggestive remarks in the 2010-11 academic year. Smith, who continues to work as as counselor at BHS, must also keep the door to his office and blinds open when counseling female students in future.
The lawyer for Lilah R.’s family, Michael Sorgen, told Berkeleyside the settlement has not been made as it still requires approval by the BUSD board.
“We have an agreement that the representatives of the district are going to recommend, but the board has to approve it,” he said. “We are going to get a written settlement agreement tomorrow for my review and it’s going to contain the specifics of all the non-monetary issues that we agreed on — all again subject to approval by the school board.”
Berkeleyside broke the news that Smith had been accused of sexually harassing a junior at BHS in April 2010. Accusations against Smith include sexual touching, stroking, hugging and making suggestive comments (see the full details in the September 1 Joint Case Management Statement filed at U.S. District Court, Northern District).
In September 2010, at the beginning of the student’s senior year, a temporary restraining order was granted ordering Smith to stay at least 100 yards away from the student. An out-of-court settlement was reached on the restraining order in October, when Smith agreed to stay at least 50 yards from the student.
The Chronicle article caught BUSD by surprise. ‘The Superintendent [Bill Huyett] was stunned when he saw the article,” said BUSD spokesperson Mark Coplan. “The case has not been settled.”
Smith’s lawyer Mark Davis is quoted in the Chronicle saying that the ruling about keeping doors and blinds open “will hopefully protect Mr. Smith from being subjected to false allegations in the future”.
Berkeley High harassment case heading to settlement [07.21.11]
Restraining order served on Berkeley High counselor 09.16.10
BUSD decision appealed in BHS harassment case 09.21.10
BHS harassment case settles, leaves open questions 10.29.10
Government to assess Berkeley High harassment case 12.07.10
BHS sexual harassment case taken to federal court 04.22.11