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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Berkeley School Counselor Accused of "Pawing and Spanking" Student

Posted By on Wed, Apr 20, 2011 at 12:36 PM

click to enlarge This crosses the line ... even in Berkeley
  • This crosses the line ... even in Berkeley

A Berkeley High School student says her school counselor consistently hugged, spanked, and pawed her at school.

The teen -- who is identified only as Lilah -- and her mother are suing the Berkeley Unified School District, accusing the superintendent of ignoring the girl when she complained that her counselor was sexually harassing her.

According to the lawsuit filed Monday in Alameda County Court, Lilah claims her counselor, Anthony Smith, persistently pawed her and repeatedly asked her to meet him after school to "share his feelings."

He also asked her whether she slept naked.

But when Lilah and her mother reported Smith's behavior, school officials said it wasn't sexual harassment or "severe," according to the claim.

Lilah says Smith would monitor her periodically through the school day and use those moments to make lewd comments and touch her inappropriately. Lilah sent the school's vice president a series of e-mails claiming that Smith had "spanked her buttocks."

"He would always hug me goodbye and would put his face in my chest or rub my back," one e-mail reads.

Mark Coplan, spokesman for the Berkeley Unified School District, said he would not comment on the incident since it is in litigation.

On Sept. 2, 2010, Lilah and her parents obtained a temporary restraining order, requiring Smith to stay 100 yards from the girl and to have no communication with her. Even then, according to the claim, school officials refused to transfer Smith.

In a letter to Lilah's parents, Superintendent William Huyett said that collective bargaining with the school union would get in the way of a transfer or dismissal, and that Smith's conduct was in fact not sexual harassment. He concluded that the transfer was not "reasonable," according to the lawsuit.

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About The Author

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert

Bio:
Erin Sherbert has been Online News Editor for SF Weekly since 2010. She's a Texas native and has a closet full of cowboy boots to prove it.

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