School of Education: Legal Seminar Videos

Sexual Harrassment: Scenario 2


Scenario #2

Dr. Erma Jean Sims,
Sonoma State University

In the past we looked at sexual harassment as teacher-to-student harassment and this is often times much more prevalent in the sense that it turns to a lawsuit or comes to the courts more often than perhaps student-to-student sexual harassment. Let's look at this scenario: Mr. Smith is a high school teacher. He has a student in his class named Innocence, whom he's known since she was an elementary school child. Due to some school budget cuts, which we know are sort of the order of the day in the state of California and in our schools. Due to these budget cuts in the gifted and talented program, which Innocence is a part of; Mr. Smith has offered to provide one-on-one instruction in advanced coursework to Innocence with notice and school district approval. He's gotten the approval of the school district to provide one-on-one instruction to Innocence. Mr. Smith frequently singles Innocence out for flattery and numerous suggestive comments both in private and in front of other students. Innocence believes this attention is due to the fact that they have a mentor/mentored relationship that she has with her teacher. So she's thinking that this is the reason for the flattery and the comments. Under the pretense of instruction Mr. Smith visits Innocence in her home while her parents are away. He takes this opportunity to kiss and fondle Innocence. Mr. Smith begins a sexual relationship with Innocence, which includes sexual intercourse. So we have a high school teacher who's known one of the students, Innocence, for a number of years certainly since she's been in elementary school child. He's providing her with one-on-one instruction in advanced coursework with the districts approval. He flatters her and makes sexual innuendos in private and in front of the students and she believes it's just because of the relationship of mentor/mentored. We see now that over the course of a period of time Mr. Smith now visits her in her home, kisses and fondles her and begins to have sexual intercourse with her.

Let's take a look at the questions that relate to this scenario. What steps as a teacher would you take, if Innocence informed you of Mr. Smith's behavior towards her? Number two, if a school employee discovers the misconduct of a teacher; this is another teacher who has discovered what is going on between Mr. Smith and Innocence. What reporting responsibility does the employee who's discovered this conduct, misconduct have? What reporting responsibilities does the employee have? And then lastly, can the school district be held financially liable for Mr. Smith's conduct? Let's take about five minutes to discuss this scenario with your colleagues and then we'll come back together.

CREDITS: Instruction and Content by Dr. Erma Jean Sims, Sonoma State University. Videography and Technical support by Mark Niemann, Sonoma State University