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California School District Settles Sexual Assault Suit Filed by Former Student for $365K

— April 8, 2022

Berkeley school district and a former student recently agreed to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit for $365,000.

A settlement agreement was recently announced between the Berkeley school district and a former high school student. The suit was originally filed by the former student over allegations that a “male student attempted to rape her in an unsupervised classroom in 2019.” In the suit, the plaintiff claimed the school district failed to “protect her before she was assaulted and failed to ensure her safety after she reported what happened.”

Gavel and two hardbound books on wooden table; image by Succo, via
Gavel and two hardbound books on wooden table; image by Succo, via

The lawsuit settled for $365,000, which will be paid to the former student. As part of the agreement, the school district does not have to admit liability.

The suit itself was filed in January 2020. According to the allegations, “an administrator knew the student’s attacker had assaulted at least six other students but failed to report him.” Additionally, it alleged that “administrators failed to secure a classroom known for being a place where students had sex.” The suit also claimed the school “allowed the student’s attacker to continue victimizing and harassing her, to the point that she withdrew from the school.” 

When asked how it decided to settle the suit, Superintendent Brent Stephens said he “tried to balance a range of needs, including staff time, the expenses of litigation, and the cost to other work the district must complete.” He added, “settling this case in order to focus further on our ongoing commitment to preventing sexual harassment made the most sense.”

Since the suit was originally filed, administrators in the district have made efforts to provide “more student and staff consent education and taken steps to improve its reporting process, including installing an anonymous tip line and purchasing a new database for tracking complaints, among other changes.” Additionally, Jasmina Viteskic, the district’s Title IX coordinator, “has prioritized engaging with students, including reporters for the Berkeley High Jacket.” 

When commenting on the settlement and recent changes in the district, the plaintiff said:

“These changes needed to happen…I know that people are going to be more protected and that’s all I really ever wanted.”

What happened, exactly? Well, according to the lawsuit, the former student was allegedly pulled into an unlocked classroom. From there, one of her schoolmates “groped her, threw her on a desk, spread her legs and then forced himself on her, while groping her breasts, buttocks, and vagina.” Despite pleading with her schoolmate to stop, he did not. Eventually, the plaintiff was able to push him away long enough to flee the classroom. 

As a result of her horrific ordeal, the plaintiff said she now “suffers from PTSD and anxiety, has trouble trusting others and cries herself to sleep some nights.” Shortly after the settlement was announced, she said it was a “victory for herself and other young women, including her two younger sisters.” She added:

“I wanted to protect them and make sure that there’s changes happening so that they can have a safe environment to go to school in, and not experience what I experienced…And I did this for myself, because I know that at the end of all of this, that I overcame one of the hardest circumstances I’ve ever gone through.” 


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