Friday, September 29, 2023
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School Isn’t Liable for Teacher-Student Affair

(CN) - The parents of a high-school girl in Indiana did not prove that the school district should have known that an assistant band director was involved in a sexual relationship with their daughter, the 7th Circuit ruled.

Sondra and William Hansen sued the Hamilton Southeastern School Corp. and assistant band director Dmitri Alano under the Civil Rights Act and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. They claimed it was "common knowledge" around the high school that Alano had married a former student from another school. An investigation later revealed that Alano had two prior relationships with students.

The federal appeals court in Chicago upheld summary judgment for the school, saying its officials had followed the correct protocol when it hired Alano in 1998. Alano had passed a criminal background check and did not appear on the sex offender registry.

The teacher and the Hansens' daughter had sexual encounters in the band room, the music practice room and the band offices, according to the ruling. Their relationship ended after the student's sophomore year, when she quit the band. She admitted the relationship to a therapist after she was hospitalized for substance abuse.

Judge Kanne agreed with the trial court that the Hansens cannot prevail on a sexual harassment claim under Title IX.

"The Supreme Court has flatly rejected applying a 'knew or should have known' standard to Title IX claims," the judge ruled. "A school is subject to a private damages action only where it is deliberately indifferent to known acts of discrimination or harassment."

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