Legal Question in Education Law in California

Harassment on the basis of religion or ethnicity

In the case I am writing about today, a student on a UC campus felt harassed and threatened by an environment which was created as a result of this harassment. The student was the subject of harassment by a professor on the basis of her religious/ethnic background.

The greater concern to us is the way in which this is being handled by the UC. At a recent meeting the student was not allowed to be accompanied by anyone who wasn't filing a complaint even though she stressed that she felt very uncomfortable talking to the administrator without her friends' presence. The administrator then proceeded to take statements from her without expressing any concern to the student's points of contention or her emotional state that has been derived from this issue.

My question today is that should we continue to be brushed off by the increasingly higher authorities of the UC system we write to, if we have any prospective legal recourse we may pursue. Neither our organization, nor the student seeks any sort of financial restituition. We simply want action to be taken, and if it isn't for the UC system to be held accountable for it.

My apologies for the long question.

Asked on 6/14/02, 12:21 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Patty Lewis Law Office of Patricia Ann Lewis

Re: Harassment on the basis of religion or ethnicity

This is the age old problem . . . harassment and discrimination are the most quixotic of problems to remedy . . . so how do we attain equality . . . it took one person to stand up in Alabama in the '60s . . . but that person endured serious enmity by the structure . . .

what you face is a public entity . . . for many legal actions the public entity is immune from prosecution . . . not so much as to discrimination or harassment but those concepts are so difficult to prove . . . one must resort to a lot of circumstantial evidence . . . there are supreme court opinions on the standards which need to be addressed . . .

in the situation you present . . . we face a great deal of this in other environments . . . in the public school sector in lower grades as well as the private employment sector . . .

it is well and good to say . . . "we don't want monetary remedies . . . we want to change the structure" . . . but you will find it extremely difficult to change the structure . . . and if the fight is going to be so difficult then you might as well be recompensed for the suffering which has been endured . . . there are ways and means to address these issues but you need a good lawyer . . . solid facts . . . and the willingness to stand behind the challenge . . . because once it starts . . . you cannot turn back . . .

finally. . . whether you choose injunctive relief or monetary damages . . . you must know there are very strict time limits within which these claims may be filed against a public entity . . . seek legal assistance immediately to ascertain those deadlines and assist you to decide the future of your claims . . . Good luck to you . . .

Patty Lewis . . .

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Answered on 6/14/02, 11:40 pm

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