Lambda Legal announced Thursday that it reached a settlement agreement with Hesperia Unified School District (HUSD) in the lawsuit brought on behalf of Julia Frost, a lesbian teacher who supported LGBTQ students as co-advisor of the students’ Gay-Straight Alliance club while teaching English at Sultana High School.
“Since filing this lawsuit more than five years ago, Julia has stood strong, knowing that she was penalized simply for being herself and doing her job,” Lambda Legal Senior Counsel Jennifer Pizer said. “Julia is delighted to be able to put this painful experience behind her and hopes this resolution further improves conditions for teachers and students in Hesperia. In keeping with California’s national-best nondiscrimination laws, pedagogy not prejudice should be the lesson in our schools.”
Under the terms of the settlement, Ms. Frost will receive $850,000, the largest employment discrimination settlement Lambda Legal has secured to date. Hesperia Unified School District previously agreed to revise its policies to require regular nondiscrimination training, clarify its discrimination complaint procedures, and make other improvements.
“It was important for me to bring this challenge, but I’m also happy it’s settled,” Ms. Frost said. “I’m also pleased to know that there are now clear, written policies in place at HUSD that hopefully will not allow what happened to me to happen to anyone else who, like me, was doing their job and looking after the interests of students.”
“This lawsuit forced Hesperia to establish desperately needed policies protecting the rights of LGBT students and teachers. It also compensates her for the harm HUSD caused to her career,” said Dan Stormer, partner with Hadsell Stormer Renick LLP and Lambda Legal’s co-counsel in the lawsuit. “I applaud Ms. Frost’s courage in standing up for LGBT teachers and students, and insisting that our schools must be welcoming for LGBT people.”
Lambda Legal filed the lawsuit in November, 2013, in San Bernardino Superior Court with then co-counsel Bert Voorhees and Rebecca Peterson-Fisher of Pasadena-based Traber & Voorhees. Dan Stormer and Hadsell Stormer Renick LLP joined the case in early 2016 after Bert Voorhees retired.
The complaint presented 10 legal claims under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act and Education Code concerning the rights of lesbian, gay, and gender non-conforming teachers and students. The dispute first came to public attention in March of 2013, when the ACLU of Southern California sent a letter to Hesperia USD on behalf of the students in the Sultana High School Gay-Straight Alliance describing pervasive discrimination and harassment.
In 2015, while denying such an environment existed, Hesperia USD implemented a broad array of policy changes, including requirements for awareness training for faculty and staff.
The case is Frost v. Hesperia USD.