By Doug Oakley
Bay Area News Group East Bay
A 17-year-old Berkeley High Student has sued her former academic counselor in federal court for sexual harassment, claiming the man made numerous unwanted sexual advances last spring including spanking her, caressing her thigh and pressing his face into her chest.
The lawsuit, filed in federal district court in San Francisco on Monday, also names Berkeley schools Superintendent William Huyett and the school district. It claims discrimination and sexual harassment under state and federal laws and seeks unspecified monetary damages.
The girl, who uses the fictitious name Lilah in the suit, brought a sexual harassment claim against the district and counselor Anthony Smith last summer, but it was denied. After an investigation the district determined Smith engaged in unprofessional behavior but not harassment. In its communications with the girl and her family, the district said the girl was the more credible witness.
School district spokesman Mark Coplan declined to comment on the suit because it is a legal and personnel issue.
"The thing that is shocking to me is that they do an investigation, they find her the more credible witness and they don't do anything, they refused to transfer him or do any meaningful discipline," Sorgen said. "It's a little scary to be a teenage girl in school and you don't have a voice."
In addition to the physical harassment, the girl alleges Smith also asked her whether she slept in the nude and repeatedly called her out of classes to have conversations unrelated to counseling.
In addition to the lawsuit, the United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights is investigating a complaint that the district did not "respond promptly and equitably" to their daughter's original charges against Smith.
The family also asked an Alameda County Superior Court judge for a permanent restraining order against Smith, but that was rejected by a judge in favor of an out-of-court settlement. The settlement requires Smith stay 50 yards away from the girl until the end of the school year and that he will have no contact with her.
Doug Oakley covers Berkeley. Contact him at 510-843-1408. Follow him at Twitter.com/douglasoakley