Palo Alto Unified will pay $150,000 to a female Gunn High School student who the district determined was sexually harassed by a male Gunn student in 2018.
The school board unanimously approved the settlement in closed session on Tuesday. The district will pay half and the other half will be covered by the Northern California Relief Joint Powers Authority, which functions as an insurance company representing school districts in liability claims, board President Jennifer DiBrienza said after the board convened in open session. She did not comment further on the settlement.
What was initially a school district Title IX case was brought into the legal system in January by the girls' parents, who sought to reinstate a district decision to prohibit the male student from participating in robotics altogether. The two students both belong to the Gunn robotics team and dated briefly.
After determining last fall that text messages the male student sent to the girl and comments he made to other students constituted sexual harassment, the district initially banned him from participating in robotics activities starting in January, but later decided to allow him to attend on an alternating schedule with an escort. This prompted the girl's family to seek a court order to prohibit the boy from participating in robotics.
Her lawyers called the district's reversal a "prejudicial abuse of discretion" unsupported by the district's own sexual-harassment finding. It "unconstitutionally deprives her of her right to equal access to education," they alleged.
A judge ultimately ruled that both should have access to the school robotics team, but with more hours and scheduling preference given to the girl.
The six-page settlement releases each party from any future claims. It is not an admission of culpability on the behalf of the district, which "expressly denies all allegations of wrongdoing asserted against it and intends merely to avoid litigation and expense by entering into this agreement," the settlement reads.
A lawyer for the girl and her family, Crystal Riggins of San Jose law firm Hoge Fenton Jones & Appel, signed the agreement on Sept. 12. Riggins declined to comment on the settlement.