LOS ANGELES (CN) - Los Angeles Unified School District has settled a lawsuit with a student who sued for retaliation after a middle school teacher invoked the First Amendment to protect his usage of a racist epithet in class.
U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder entered an order dismissing the action in the Central District of California on Friday, ending the litigation triggered by a black student’s claim that former Paul Revere Middle School teacher Steven Carnine made racist comments in front of his mostly white class.
In September, the district agreed to pay $215,000 to settle the claims. Of that amount, the student, who filed anonymously as Jane Doe, will receive $60,0000 for her education and athletic expenses. Another $25,735.60 will be placed in an account that she can access once she turns 18.
The parties agreed to pay the remainder of the settlement to Doe's lawyers at Nielsen, Peterson & Nielsen; Hennig Ruiz; and The Law Office of Terrence Jones.
Neither the district nor Doe's attorneys immediately responded to requests for comment on Monday.
Earlier this year, Synder rejected Carnine’s free speech claims after Doe’s lawsuit accused him of telling his students that people hated Abraham Lincoln because he was a “n-i-g-g-e-r lover.”
Carnine singled out 13-year-old Doe, leaned in close and said, “Isn’t that right?”, she claimed in her discrimination complaint.
Initially filed in state court in 2015, Doe refiled her lawsuit in federal court the following year.
She said that Carnine used the slur to retaliate against her after her dad complained to school officials about Carnine’s behavior in other classes. According to Doe, he had spoken disdainfully about Michael Brown, the 18-year-old shot dead by a policeman in Ferguson, Missouri, telling the class that Brown “was a thug and he got what he deserved.” In another class about racial stereotypes, Doe claims Carnine said that, “‘Black people are judged for not being smart because they are not smart. A lot of them are just athletes.’”
Carnine asked the court to throw out Doe’s retaliation claim for his use of the racial epithet, arguing that other students in the mainly white class had a right to hear “offensive ideas,” and that he was entitled to immunity as a school official.
Snyder rejected the former teacher's motion for summary judgment in February, finding the student could proceed with her claims of racial discrimination, freedom of speech and equal protection.
After Doe filed her lawsuit, close to 100 protesters, including parents, came out in support of Carnine with chants of, “Bring Him Back” and “Save Carnine,” according to Doe. She said the protests turned ugly, and she saw people holding signs or wearing T-shirts stating, “Down with black girl” and “[Jane Doe] is a B.”
Doe says school officials and administrators did little to reprimand students. The protests culminated with 500 students walking out and demonstrating one day in March 2015, she said.
Paul Revere suspended Carnine for eight days, but he returned to the classroom after appealing his suspension. He no longer works within Los Angeles Unified, according to court records.
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