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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Harvard Westlake Lawsuit Article

Reader Tip: Harvard Westlake litigation articles are here in the archive.

Welcome! You're in the right place.

This is the article that talks about the Harvard Westlake Lawsuit. It goes into some discussion about hate crimes and the school policies.

The rules were clear, but acccording to the complaint the school officials were doing something else. Where was the board of trustees, or were the board members asleep like they apparently were in re UC Los Alamos National Lab[LANL]?

To find the article in this blog, type in Kw="Internet Hate Crimes" or scroll down for the article about the Westlake Lawsuit.To read more articles, visit the tag group.

The School officials are walking on very thin ice in a warming arctic summer. Assuming the essential facts in the complaint are true, you'll find the contrast with the schools' handbook/guide for students and parents very disturbing -- the school likes to say one thing, but it does something else.
Although Harvard-Westlake encourages the development of individual talents and respects the rights of every student to his or her own opinion, there must be commonly accepted standards of behavior and communication. . . . We expect each member of the community to embrace the spirit as well as the letter of the law. . . . Respect for other people, honesty, and courtesy are fundamental standards in which the school believes and that are expected of everyone. /s/ Jeanne Huybrechts, Head of Middle School
Appripriate use of technology
QUOTE: Students accessing technology as representatives of Harvard-Westlake are expected to use appropriate language, manners, and ethics. Students who are unsure of what constitutes “appropriate” should ask themselves, “Will my actions reflect well on the Harvard-Westlake community?”END-QUOTE
The guide also says that users should report inappropriate conduct; but we can only wonder why anyone would seriously do so if the management response was, "Send the victim to another school":
QUOTE: Users are responsible for reporting problems, abuses, or misuses of technology resources. Being a responsible user means more than using technology appropriately; it also means taking responsibility for caring for these resources and reporting abuses and misuses. These include, but are not limited to, sending or receiving messages that contain or suggest pornography; unethical or illegal solicitation; and racist, sexist, or otherwise inappropriate language.ENDQUOTE
Because of the apparent lack of action against the perpetrators, are we to conclude that threatening death is "appropriate use of technology"?

The escape clause
QUOTE: "Any inappropriate use of technology may result in disciplinary action." ENDQUOTE
Meaning, "may" is discretionary and non-mandatory.

Take a look at page 48 of the guide, "Audience Behavior Guidelines" -- it appears they put more focus on theater producion standards of behavior than that of factors affecting academic performance, like bullying:

All beepers and cell phones should be turned off.
• No photographic equipment is allowed.
• No talking.
• If it is necessary to leave your seat during a performance, please
wait for an appropriate time to leave the theater, when the action on
stage has momentarily stopped.
• No calling out to performers while they are performing.

Maybe they need to add as a 5th bullet, "Please refrain from posting death threats on the internet."

Sportsmanship: What are they teaching those little interenet-death-threaters?

This is what they say in the guide [in brackets -- with my comments, based on the news reports about the death threats added]:
We will teach habits of body and mind that contribute to a healthy and happy life [for those who want to learn how to abuse and victimize others with threats of death].

We will encourage [but not require] our student–athletes to challenge themselves [and others through threats of death] through [evil, not] honest [harassing] competition [and threats to others] and to learn lifelong lessons of [lack of] responsibility, commitment [to threats of abuse and death], and initiative [which we do not expect you to actually apply; just learn them so you can know what others are foolish to believe].

We will [pretend to] practice and [go through the motions of] teach[ing] teamwork and good sportsmanship [; when your target is not looking, be evil to them; but why stop there -- do it to their face].

We will respect [most of] our student–athletes and their [evil plans to threaten death] commitments beyond athletics [not really, but it sounds good on paper, doesn't it].

We expect all members of our community to respect the athletes and support the officials who join us in competition [this is a nice slogan to induce the parents to keep paying for a private education -- are you tearing up, yet?].

We recognize that our athletic program is an integral part of the Harvard-Westlake community and complements the academic mission that is central to the
life of our school [just don't ask us to actually expect peple to follow these rules wen using technology, remember we only "may" impose discipline].

Sportsmanship standards should apply to the internet [See page 57]
Players must show respect for their teammates, coaches, officials,
opponents, and the game [but not the readers of the internet?].
• Following each game, it is appropriate to conduct a cheer for and/or shake hands with the opposing team [but it is OK to verbally abuse and threaten death of your fellow school mates?].
• Profanity is not acceptable at any time [but we won't really mind if you threaten someone with deaeth on the internet, cuz that's not really a game?]. An athlete will be removed from a contest if she/he uses inappropriate language of any kind [but go ahead and use fowl language when threatening someone who do not like on the internet?].
Educators are involved in equipment use: Fair notice to parents and students

Reliance, and in writing:
Harvard-Westlake sports and training equipment may be used only after proper instruction and with appropriate supervision.
In other words, it remains to be seen whether the scope of the allegations are amended to include a class action for constructive fraud and breach of contract: Apparently parents were led to believe that students would be appropriately supervised, but they were not.

Harassment page 24 [added comments in brackets]
Any form of harassment, including sexual harassment, whether verbal, physical, or visual, is strictly prohibited [clearly promulgated; relied upon]. All students must be allowed [reasonable expectation of eforcement] to work and study in an environment free from harassment [advertized position, climate and promoted publicly in written literature -- false advertising?] and unsolicited and unwelcome sexual overtures. Sexual harassment does not refer to occasional compliments or other generally acceptable social behavior. Sexual harassment refers to behavior that is not welcome, personally offensive, or undermines or weakens morale.

Sexual harassment may include such conduct as (1) demands for sexual favors accompanied by implied or overt promises or preferential treatment or threats concerning student status, (2) pressure for sexual activity, (3) offensive, unwanted physical contact such as hugging, patting, pinching, or constant brushing against another’s body, or (4) offensive unwanted sex-oriented verbal “kidding,” jokes, or abuse [seem clear to me: Unwanted statements is harassment].

If a student becomes aware of harassment of any kind, whether it be personal or not, or feels that he or she is a victim of harassment, this information should be communicated immediately to his or her dean, the head of school, the school psychologist, or the school counselor. Any such complaint must be specific and should include all relevant information so that the school may conduct a thorough investigation.

The deans are required to report [did they?] such complaints to the head of school. The school will investigate the complaint [did it?]. Upon conclusion of the investigation, the school will take action [Did it?] to remedy the situation. The school will not tolerate any retaliation [If retaliation is not acceptable, why are targets advised to leave?] against a student who files a complaint or participates in an investigation regarding a complaint of harassment. However, anyone who makes a false claim of harassment will be subject to discipline, up to and including expulsion.

Is Southern California full of Hate?

The reason why this is significant is that there have been other attacks recently in the southern California area, the other at Poway High School in San Diego. Why are some attacks getting more attention and police concern than others; and why are targets told to "let it go" and then encouraged to to leave?

This shifts the burden onto the victim and doesn't solve the harassment problem; it just avoid dealing with the real problem: People not being held accountable for their conduct and poor management.

Indeed, things are looking bad for management.

Franklin is an interesting read in that it discusses how a case was dropped, nothing done. The Supreme Court reversed, saying that damage awards were appropriate. The 9th Circuit in 143 F.3d 473 [Warn: Opinion Withdrawn] stated,
[ in re Franklin, 503 U.S. 60 at 75, 112 S. Ct. 1028, 117 L. Ed. 2d 208.] QUOTE Thus, after Franklin, a school official in a supervisory position cannot claim immunity for the failure to respond to complaints of harassment and discrimination. ENDQUOTE
20 USC 1681 appears to be a possible cause of action; we'll have to see the actual complaint.

Here is some interesting language from the 9th Circuit in re "School Officials May Be Held Individually Liable For Failing To Act Upon Harassment Of Students,." 143 F.3d 473. Cert was denied, 526 U.S. 1154.

Based on this case and the unfolding situation with the DA, it looks as though the situation is far more serious in re 1983 claims. In Oonis [143 F.3d 473] the court found, "The allegations that defendants knew of Ibach's behavior and failed to prevent it are sufficient to show violations of clearly established Title IX rights during the 1992-93 year."

Specifically, given the clear guidance issued in 1998, the reasonable person would expect other communities to have enacted some sort of training by 2005.

Even the Poway City Council has closed door litigation meetings, highlighted in red; they gave a $3000 check for Poway High School Grad Nite in 2001.

1997 language in re expulsion. Expulsion shall be initiated for . . . "Committing or attempting to commit a sexual assault". Today, they expel-ostracize the victim-target, a widespread practice in America.

There was clear statutory language; plenty of time for counsel to digest the language; and ample opportunity for the authorities and management to take action. It seems clear that alot of the language got ignored or explained away on the basis of "the kid didn't mean it." Who's actually running the school, the bullies?

This is not a new problem. Hazing history at US High Schools, and was behind the Columbine and Red Lake attacks. These school officials appear to be playing stupid about reality. That would tend to increase the severity of the damage award.

I'm guessing that personnel in the school, DA's office, and LE were promoted not based on qualifications or knowledge of the regulations, but because of backfilling positions that were cleared out because of mandatory retirements.

Let's take a look at a random person who was tangentially associated with both Harvard-Westlake and Title IX. Again, I'm not saying that this person has a problem or is responsible; only to show that the personnel assigned to Harvard-Westlake did have the ability to understand Title IX, and did have contacts to get informed.

For example, look at Matt Dillon's CV

1988: "Tragic Laughter," California Classical Association-Southern Section: Harvard-Westlake School

1989-1991: Chair, Title IX Subcommittee of the Committee on the Status of Women, LMU

Indeed, in 2002 Audrius Barzdukas, head of Athletics at Westlake-Harvard discussed the benefits of Title IX ["Due to Title IX, the opportunitiesare greater than ever"], so some of the school officials knew the signifigance of Title IX. More evidence that there was no excuse for "not knowing" or "failing to act", and this would tend to up the damage award.

Charter schools not independent.

Westlake Harvard Lawsuit Background

NBC4 photos. Caplin filmography

Superior Court Case #BC332406, Department 39. [ Case Docket: Link to Superior Court ]

Contacts: [Not affiliated with Constant's Pations]

The Law Offices of Charlotte Hassett, Esq.

Jaffe & Co., Inc.

Note: Hasset was replaced as counsel in May 2005. Caplins new attorney is:

Jennifer L. Lynch, Attorney At Law;
St. Bar #157020
380 S. Melrose Dr., Suite 208
Vista, Ca. 92083
Tele: (760) 643-4113

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