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NJ district to pay $4.2M to settle lawsuit over bully’s punch that paralyzed …

18 Apr

The family’s lawsuit alleged school officials knew or should have known the boy’s attacker had violent tendencies and failed to comply with a state anti-bullying law, said the Rosensteins’ attorney, Jeffrey Youngman. The boy had punched another student in the face on a school bus a year earlier, but the school kept no record of it or other attacks and the attacker was not subjected to escalating discipline, the suit said.

Just three months before being punched, Rosenstein, then 12, emailed school officials to report he was being bullied and to ask for help.

“I would like to let you know that the bullying has increased,” he wrote to his guidance counselor at the Eric Smith Middle School. “I would like to figure out some coping mechanisms to deal with these situations, and I would just like to put this on file so if something happens again, we can show that there was past bullying situations.”

Sawyer was punched in the abdomen at school on May 16, 2006, dropping him to his knees. When he came home that day he complained of pain in his back but otherwise felt fine, his father, Joel Rosenstein, told The Record of Woodland Park.

Two days later, the seventh-grader let out a scream in his bedroom.

“We picked him up and called an ambulance,” the father told the newspaper. “He hasn’t walked since.”

The blow had caused a clot in a major artery that supplies blood to his spine, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down from what his attorney described as an “incredibly rare’ injury.

The Ramsey superintendent was not available for comment Wednesday, his office said. Youngman said the settlement did not include any admission of liability or fault on the part of the district.

Sawyer Rosenstein, now an 18-year-old freshman majoring in communication at Syracuse University, told The Record he has always tried to maintain a positive attitude.

“I can’t go back and change the past. What I can do is look at what I have now and what is ahead of me. And I have my whole life ahead of me,” he said.

Youngman told The Associated Press “there is never enough money in the world that could compensate someone who is paralyzed.”

But Youngman said Rosenstein has refused to “make this a story of ‘woe is me.’”

“It is a story of triumph and moving on,” he said.

The Rosensteins also settled a claim against the boy who attacked their son. Youngman said the terms were confidential.

New Jersey enacted a tough new anti-bullying law in 2011. Youngman said such laws are effective only if they are enforced and adequately funded.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/nj-district-to-pay-42m-to-settle-lawsuit-over-bullys-punch-that-paralyzed-middle-schooler/2012/04/18/gIQAtDmrQT_story.html

Problems with Anti-Bullying Legislation

3 Apr

WILLIAM CREELEY, THE FIRE

In an opinion piece published in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, Nick Gillespie discusses what he perceives to be the problems presented by the national focus on bullying. Among other observations, Gillespie, editor in chief of Reason.com, points out FIRE’s concerns about the federal Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act:

Last year, in response to the suicide of the 18-year-old gay Rutgers student Tyler Clementi, the state legislature passed “The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights.” The law is widely regarded as the nation’s toughest on these matters. It has been called both a “resounding success” by Steve Goldstein, head of the gay-rights group Garden State Equality, and a “bureaucratic nightmare” by James O’Neill, the interim school superintendent of the township of Roxbury. In Congress, New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg and Rep. Rush Holt have introduced the federal Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has called the Lautenberg-Holt proposal a threat to free speech because its “definition of harassment is vague, subjective and at odds with Supreme Court precedent.” Should it become law, it might well empower colleges to stop some instances of bullying, but it would also cause many of them to be sued for repressing speech.

Gillespie’s exactly right to highlight the First Amendment problems with this legislation, no matter how well-intentioned its authors might be. Gillespie’s quoting a piece about the Act I wrote for The Chronicle of Higher Education last April:

The legislation’s definition of harassment is vague, subjective, and at odds with Supreme Court precedent.

In its 1999 decision in Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, the Supreme Court defined hostile-environment peer harassment as conduct “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive, and that so undermines and detracts from the victims’ educational experience, that the victim-students are effectively denied equal access to an institution’s resources and opportunities.” This exacting definition strikes an appropriate balance between protected speech and unprotected harassment—which is exactly why it has been cited for the past decade by colleges, courts, and the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

In contrast, the proposed legislation’s definition of harassment is vague and subjective. It defines harassment as “acts of verbal, nonverbal, or physical aggression, intimidation, or hostility” that are “sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive so as to limit a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from a program or activity at an institution of higher education, or to create a hostile or abusive educational environment.”

While this may seem functionally similar to the Davis standard, it isn’t. For one, the bill’s definition fails to require that the allegedly harassing expression be “objectively offensive.” Without this built-in “reasonable person” standard, whether or not speech is actionable harassment will effectively be determined by the most sensitive student on campus, no matter how unreasonably offended he or she may be by protected speech.

Making matters worse, the bill also fails to define what constitutes a “hostile or abusive educational environment,” apparently leaving student-conduct administrators to determine whether or not speech is sufficiently “hostile” or “abusive” as they see fit. This newfound discretion would prove to be a curse to administrators: Fail to punish protected speech that an alleged victim deemed “hostile” enough to qualify as harassment, and risk a lawsuit from the accuser; punish speech that, despite being protected, seemed to create a “hostile” environment, and risk a lawsuit from the accused.

While the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act has seemingly stalled in Congress, state anti-bullying legislation often includes similar problems. For example, New Jersey’s Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights is equally flawed when it comes to student speech, as Iv eexplained hereonTheTorch before.

Even better than my explanation, however, is the one authored by Brooklyn Law School Professor Derek Bambauer recently for Concurring Opinions. In assessing the law’s impact on First Amendment protections for students, Bambauer points out the fact that under New Jersey’s (again, well-intentioned) law, “a group of students who, on the bus ride home, sing ‘Blame Canada‘ from the film South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, to the consternation of a classmate from Montreal” have committed “harassment / intimidation / bullying — regardless of whether our potential bullies intend to cause harm, or whether our singers know that their classmate is Canadian.” Summarizing his argument, Bambauer writes:

First, the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights has several aspects that are problematic from a First Amendment perspective — in particular, the overbreadth of its definition of prohibited conduct, the enforcement discretion afforded school personnel, and the risk of impingement upon religious and political freedoms. I argue that the legislation departs from established precedent on disruptions of the educational environment by regulating horizontal relations between students rather than vertical relations between students and the school as an institution / environment. Second, I believe we should be cautious about statutory regimes that enable government actors to sanction speech based on content. I suggest that it is difficult to distinguish, on a principled basis, between bullying (which is bad) and social sanctions that enforce norms (which are good). Moreover, anti-bullying laws risk displacing effective informal measures that emerge from peer production.

I strongly recommend reading Bambauers piece in full. It’s the most lucid and thoughtful explanation of the free speech problems with New Jersey’s law that I’ve seen.

Gillespie’s WSJ op-ed has prompted some pushback online. Writing for Think Progess, Zack Ford criticizes Gillespie’s citation of FIRE’s free speech concerns:

It’s unsurprising that Gillespie shied away from discussing anti-LGBT bullying, which is where the “supposed crisis” is most exacerbated. According to GLSENs climate survey from 2009 (more recent than the data Gillespie cites), nine out of ten LGBT students experience anti-gay harassment at school. A new study released in January found that nearly half of students and teachers in elementary schools even hear language like “that’s so gay” on a regular basis. Instead, Gillespie invoked the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a group that defends the religious free speech of students, often when it is anti-gay in nature. In other words, he’d rather highlight the work of those defending the bullies than those defending their victims.

Ford’s characterization of FIRE’s work is disappointingly incomplete. Of course FIRE defends “the religious free speech of students” — because we defend all free speech of all college students, period. FIRE is a proudly nonpartisan organization, and we defend speech regardless of its content. As our case archives demonstrate, we’ll defend student speech that mocks religion just as readily as we’ll defend student speech that promotes religion. And of course, we’ll defend LGBT groups, too.

When it comes to legislative responses to “bullying,” FIRE asks that lawmakers recognize the existing standard for peer-on-peer harassment, which respects student speech while addressing the behavior we properly conceive of as bullying. As I wrote in the piece for the Chronicle:

Luckily, the problems with the legislation can be dealt with easily: The Davis standard should be written into the bill’s definition of harassment. That way the conflict between Congress and the courts can be avoided, student-speech rights can be protected, and truly harassing conduct can continue to be addressed. But even with that change, legislators and the general public should realize that new legislation isn’t always the answer. Remember, the unconscionable treatment of Tyler Clementi was already prohibited under both university policy and state criminal law.

So Ford’s shot at FIRE for our work “defending the bullies” seems to make the basic mistake of conflating the defense of free speech with support for the content of that speech. As David Hamlin of the ACLU explained back in 1978, when the ACLU was being pilloried for its defense of the free speech rights of neo-Nazis: “One of the difficulties the ACLU has always had is a kind of instant association with the client. … Every time we represent someone, people assume that we are supporting what they say, and not their right to say it.” Discussing the necessity of defending even the most distasteful speech, Hamlin pointed out that “[m]ost of the causes we represent are unpopular, at least with someone. …  In one sense, everything we do is unpopular, in that not everyone agrees with everything we do. … We continue to represent the rights of even the most unpopular individuals.”

Indeed, defending the rights of those with whom one doesn’t agree is a crucially important element of protecting free speech rights, on campus and elsewhere. Generally speaking, popular or sympathetic speech doesn’t need protection. But speakers with minority viewpoints do need protection, whether that speech be religious, political, or otherwise — and whether or not Ford (or you, or I) agrees with it. Defending the rights of minority speakers regardless of the content of their speech doesn’t mean FIRE is “defending the bullies.” It means we’re doing the hard work of defending free speech on campus, and we’d be unable to do so if we only defended that speech we liked or agreed with.

Given the unfortunate trend of proposed or enacted legislation at both the state and federal level threatening student speech rights — no matter how well-intentioned those legislative efforts may be — our work is as necessary as ever.


Guest post by William Creeley. William Creeley is FIRE’s Director of Legal and Public Advocacy.


Used with the permission of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.


http://www.themoralliberal.com/2012/04/02/problems-with-anti-bullying-legislation/

Should Students Suspended For Online Bullying Be Allowed Back?

3 Apr

The Lee’s Summit R-7 School District in Missouri is appealing a federal judge’s recent decision, which allowed two student bloggers to return to school after being suspended for 180 days over an online blog about their school.

Senior U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs ruled from the bench on Thursday, March 22, ordering high school juniors and twin brothers Steven and Sean Wilson be returned to school while their First Amendment lawsuit moves forward: the students, through their parents, filed a free speech lawsuit against the school in early March.

Sachs did not provide a written rationale for his ruling, but the Kansas City Star reported Sachs as saying from the bench that the boys’ interest in returning to school outweighed the district’s concern for disruption.

Suspended For Creating Blog With Several Crude Posts

The Wilsons were suspended last year after creating a blog that featured several crude posts about another student and a post with a racial epithet. The boys admit to writing posts on the site about a named female student. One of them referred to her as “the biggest bitch in the whole school.” However, the boys claimed they created the posts at home, on their personal computers, and that the epithet was posted by a third student.

By contrast, the school claims the boys used district computers to make the offensive blog, which disrupted the educational process. According to court documents, the blog was meant to be satirical commentary about life at Lee’s Summit North.

School district attorney Jessica Bernard said the district is appealing Sachs’ ruling and has asked the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to put the students’ return on hold during the appeal. Bernard filed a motion for stay under seal Thursday, meaning it is not publicly available.

Several Lawsuits Addressing Free Speech Rights Of Students Online

The Wilsons, described as A students, have been attending an alternative school since January. If the appeals court issues a stay, they will remain there. Otherwise, the students can return to Lee’s Summit North High School on April 9.

From The Student Press Law Center:

The case joins a growing number of lawsuits addressing the free speech rights of students online. The U.S. Supreme Court has not addressed the issue, and lower courts are divided. A recent ruling by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld school discipline of another Missouri student who sent instant messages from his home computer that the court found threatening and disruptive.

The Lee’s Summit case will be the first to decide whether that ruling applies only to threatening speech or to any off-campus speech that could disrupt school. The Wilsons argue there was no substantial disruption of school anyway.

Bullying either in person or online must never be allowed. The Wilsons certainly deserve their punishment.

As for the Wilsons’ parents suing on behalf of their children, I find this an odd, and disconcerting, choice of action. The last thing they should be doing is publicly approving what their children did. Where is the moral guidance necessary in this situation, the explanation to these youngsters that what they did was hurtful and wrong.

Another small, but important, point. Since when does December to April make 180 days?

What do you think? Should these boys be allowed back to their old school?

Related Stories

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Girls At Hasidic High School Ordered To Quit Facebook

Illinois Law To Tackle Online Bullying Takes Effect

http://www.care2.com/causes/should-students-suspended-for-online-bullying-be-allowed-back.html

Bullying federal lawsuit suit lodged against Scranton School District headed … – Scranton Times

1 Apr

A federal lawsuit against the Scranton School District brought by the parents of a young girl claiming she was tormented by other students while teachers stood by is slated for settlement talks next week.

Barbara and George Price, the parents of the South Scranton Intermediate School student, claimed their daughter was the victim of relentless bullying beginning in October 2009, when she was in seventh grade and around the time she developed a painful medical condition.

It further claimed school officials “chose to be passive observers, and worse, actual conspirators in the cruel, relentless and unlawful abuse.”

The girl encountered such hostile bullying at school for several months that she considered killing herself, according to the suit. Several teachers were aware of it but took no “appropriate action to intervene,” the suit said.

District solicitor John Minora declined to comment because the litigation is pending.

A settlement conference has been scheduled for Tuesday, according to a court order filed Tuesday, the latest filing in the case.

The suit originally named some school district employees, school board members, students and their parents until a federal judge in January dismissed them from the case. The judge, however, ruled the lawsuit could proceed against the school district.

Contact the writer: smcconnell@timesshamrock.com

http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/bullying-federal-lawsuit-suit-lodged-against-scranton-school-district-headed-to-settlement-talks-1.1289388

Bullying federal lawsuit suit lodged against Scranton School District headed … – Scranton Times

1 Apr

A federal lawsuit against the Scranton School District brought by the parents of a young girl claiming she was tormented by other students while teachers stood by is slated for settlement talks next week.

Barbara and George Price, the parents of the South Scranton Intermediate School student, claimed their daughter was the victim of relentless bullying beginning in October 2009, when she was in seventh grade and around the time she developed a painful medical condition.

It further claimed school officials “chose to be passive observers, and worse, actual conspirators in the cruel, relentless and unlawful abuse.”

The girl encountered such hostile bullying at school for several months that she considered killing herself, according to the suit. Several teachers were aware of it but took no “appropriate action to intervene,” the suit said.

District solicitor John Minora declined to comment because the litigation is pending.

A settlement conference has been scheduled for Tuesday, according to a court order filed Tuesday, the latest filing in the case.

The suit originally named some school district employees, school board members, students and their parents until a federal judge in January dismissed them from the case. The judge, however, ruled the lawsuit could proceed against the school district.

Contact the writer: smcconnell@timesshamrock.com

http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/bullying-federal-lawsuit-suit-lodged-against-scranton-school-district-headed-to-settlement-talks-1.1289388

Bully Dangerously Oversimplifies the Connection Between Bullying and …

31 Mar

What we don’t see is Tyler’s mental health history. Here’s some of what’s missing. Tyler, who died when he was a junior, was diagnosed with ADHD, bipolar disorder, and Asperger’s (autism with a normal to high IQ) in sixth grade. Five weeks before his death, Tyler’s father found him in his room “messing” with belts and asked his son if he was contemplating suicide. Tyler said no, and his parents believed him. About two weeks later, however, on Sept. 25, 2009, the Longs took Tyler to see a psychologist, at least in part because he wanted to go. Tyler’s parents, Tina and David, didn’t tell the psychologist about their suicide concerns or report that their son was being mistreated in school, even though the psychologist asked about this specifically. (The Longs also didn’t tell the school that Tyler might be suicidal, or that he’d gone for counseling.)

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/bulle/2012/03/bully_documentary_lee_hirsch_s_film_dangerously_oversimplifies_the_connection_between_bullying_and_suicide_.html

Trailer: Documentary on Bullying at Mentor High School, Plus Reaction from …

31 Mar

Picture_1780.png

Five Mentor High School students have committed suicide in recent years. That’s a troubling number, and it hasn’t escaped the attention of parents or the media, especially when families say that bullying in the halls of the high school drove their children to despair. Two of those families have sued the school district. One lawsuit has been dropped, the other goes on.

There’s a documentary in the works by Alix Lambert on the alleged Mentor bullying problem, the trailer for which is above. The film isn’t completed yet, but it’s already touched nerves in the city.

School officials posted brief notes on the MHS site this week in response to the trailer and a Plain Dealer article about the documentary. They haven’t and won’t say much — legal reasons, naturally.

Via Patch:

Superintendent Jacqueline Hoynes —

Many of you in the Mentor Schools community have probably seen the Cleveland Plain Dealer story covering the documentary being produced about alleged bullying at MHS.

While I have not seen the entire documentary, and the PD article indicates it is not yet completed, the trailer reports only one side of the story.

For legal reasons, we have not been able to respond in the media to the allegations being made. In the past, I have asked for your patience when allegations have been made about bullying incidents at MHS.

I now repeat that request as once again strangers appear to be making inaccurate statements about MHS and our students. I feel confident once the facts are able to come out, we will be exonerated from all of these allegations.

Thank you for your continued support of our students. We have a wonderful student body and they are worthy of that support.

Mentor High School Principal William Wade —

I know many of you are feeling frustrated over the way our school is being portrayed in the media in regard to a documentary trailer recently released about alleged bullying at Mentor High.

While there is not a lot we can say in response to the media coverage for legal reasons, what I know is that we have a great school, with great students and staff.

It is unfortunate some people are trying to paint us in a bad light. But one thing I know is we will stick together and show our Cardinal Pride.

I encourage all of you to take the high road and deflect this negativity with positivity and kindness. Demonstrate your Cardinal Pride and show everyone how great our school is by continuing to do all the great things we do.

As I said at the beginning of the year: be a good citizen and stand up and speak out. Remember once a cardinal always a cardinal. Have a great morning and stay strong Mentor High!

http://www.clevescene.com/scene-and-heard/archives/2012/03/30/trailer-documentary-on-bullying-at-mentor-high-school-plus-reaction-from-school-officials

Former Mountie accuses RCMP of bullying, discrimination in class-action lawsuit

31 Mar

VANCOUVER—A former Mountie has launched a class-action lawsuit against the RCMP, hoping to purge the “toxic” attitude against women within the male-dominated force, her lawyer says.

David Klein says more than 100 current and former female members from across Canada are preparing to stand behind the lawsuit alleging widespread sexual harassment.

The suit was filed Tuesday in B.C. Supreme Court on behalf of Janet Merlo and alleges she was subjected to persistent and ongoing gender-based discrimination by male members.

The 19-year-veteran spent most of her career at the Nanaimo, B.C., detachment on the east coast of Vancouver Island and said the harassment started in 1992, just months into her job.

The lawsuit alleges she endured a series of sexist comments, sexual pranks, derogatory remarks and double standards.

In one instance, the court documents say she told her supervisor she was pregnant and he yelled at her.

“You had better get your priorities straight. You are either going to have a career in the RCMP, or you are going to pop out kids your whole life,” the unnamed officer said. “I have a suggestion for you; next time, keep your (expletive) legs closed.”

RCMP media spokesman Sgt. Greg Cox wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit, saying that because the case is before the court, a statement would be inappropriate.

The allegations in the court documents have not been proven in court.

Klein said the legal team has heard the same kinds of stories from women across the country.

“We’ve been contacted by dozens of women who are currently in the force and don’t want to be part of the class action but have provided us with encouragement to assist us with the case,” he said in an interview.

He said another 150 current and former members have expressed interest in participating in the case.

“They want change. They want to change this organization from one that is toxic to women to one that is accepting of them.”

Klein said the organization has been dominated by men for over 100 years and while these women know it takes time to change a culture, that time has long past.

“Part of the problem is that the complaints women made were not taken seriously by the force. They need a new structure and it’s something that has to occur top down.”

These women are hoping the lawsuit will spur a process that creates transparency and accountability within the force, he said.

Merlo said in a statement from her lawyer that it’s too late for change for her.

“But I hope that this lawsuit will bring about some positive change for women who are still with the RCMP and women who join the force.”

Last year, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson vowed to address complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace when the allegations first came to light.

He agreed that all Canadians were concerned about the allegations.

Just before Paulson spoke out, former high-profile RCMP media relations officer Catherine Galliford came forward in November to say she was repeatedly sexually harassed by male officers.

A class-action lawsuit must first be certified before it’s allowed to proceed. A judge must determine there is common ground between the complainants.

Klein said that process could take up to two years.

He expects dozens of women to join the legal action in that time. For now, Merlo is the representative plaintiff in the action.

The statement of claim says those involved knew or ought to have known that their conduct was the kind that would terrify a normal person, causing harm and humiliation.

The lawsuit outlines a long list of damages or injury including post-traumatic stress disorder, diminished self worth, attempted suicide, anxiety, feelings of guilt, insomnia and failed relationships.

“These injuries have caused and continue to cause the plaintiff and class members pain, suffering loss of enjoyment of life, permanent disability, loss of physical, mental and emotional health and loss of earnings, past and prospective,” said the statement of claim.

The lawsuit doesn’t specify damages, but asks for exemplary and punitive damages and recovery of health care costs.

http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/1152854--former-mountie-accuses-rcmp-of-bullying-discrimination-in-class-action-lawsuit?bn=1

He sues school & student bully — 8 yrs. later!

29 Mar

The incident came two weeks after Giray’s mother, Dr. Ayse Giray, a pediatrician, complained in two emails to school administrators that Dworakowski, a champion athlete, had repeatedly called her smaller son “gay” and told him he had “elephant ears.”

“I really don’t want him to be bullied again,” the mother wrote in a September 2004 email to Calhoun administrators.

Dworakowski’s mother, Elzbieta, told the Daily News yesterday that she was shocked that Giray had filed a lawsuit so many years after the event.

“Oh, please. That was not a bullying. That was just an accident. A teacher told us it was an accident and nothing else,” she said, her voice shaking with emotion.

Giray disagreed.

“On his life, Eric said Daniel with malice and intent in his eyes pushed Eric extremely hard and quickly so that Eric had no time to react and smashed him into the bleachers,” Cherwin said. “Eric said there is absolutely no way it could have been an accident, especially given the taunting over the months preceding the incident.”

In the lawsuit, Giray accused Calhoun of failing to respond to his mother’s bullying complaints, failing to protect him and not having an anti-bullying policy. He is seeking $1.5 million in damages.

bross@nydailynews.com

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/sues-school-student-bully-8-yrs-article-1.1049387?localLinksEnabled=false

LGBT National Briefs: Arizona advocate, Southeast lawsuit

29 Mar

LAIESKI JOINS PHOENIX MAYOR’S OFFICE

Arizona-native Caleb Laieski, 17, who made the Washington rounds in 2011 lobbying for the Student Non-Discrimination Act, is joining Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton’s (D) office as the mayor’s ”Youth and Diversity Liaison,” the Arizona Republic reports.

Laieski, who dropped out of high school after suffering ongoing anti-gay bullying, will focus on an anti-bullying agenda. Nicole France Stanton, the mayor’s wife, is working on a complementary anti-bullying agenda, according to the Republic.

”Being a youth myself, I feel that this opportunity will allow me to bring a young person’s perspective to the administration,” says Laiseki, according to the LGBTQNation blog. ”During my time in this office, I will strive to see the dropout rate lower, intervention by school administrations steadily increase and the suicide rate rapidly decline.”

A stipend to cover Laieski’s commitment of five hours per week is being provided by ”one n ten,” a LGBT youth-advocacy nonprofit.

STUDENT SUING AFTER POSSIBLE FIRING FOR GAY-POSITIVE POSITION

A Georgia high school senior is suing his school district after being removed as the student body president as punishment, he argues, for suggesting that the school open prom king and queen nominations to gay and lesbian couples.

Reuben Lack, 18, was told by faculty advisers at Alpharetta High School that he could no longer serve as the president of his school’s student council because he was ”pushing personal projects,” according to The Georgia Voice.

In the lawsuit, filed March 20 in the U.S. District Court Northern District of Georgia, Lack argues that his removal infringes on his “exercise of rights protected by the first amendment,” the Voice reported.

”There’s a whole line of cases about First Amendment rights in schools,” James Radford, the student’s attorney told the Voice. ”Students retain their First Amendment rights so long as their speech is not substantially disruptive.”

In response to the lawsuit, Susan Wilcox Jiles, the district’s attorney, says that Lack’s claims are invalid.

”The student was essentially a poor leader,” she said in a statement. ”He behaved in manner not becoming of student body president including but not limited to rescheduling meetings with little notice, directly going against the instructions of the faculty advisers.”

Lack’s attorney responded by calling the school’s remarks ”baloney.”

”Reuben served as class president for … ten months with not a single warning from the administration that his position was at risk,” a statement released on Radford’s site reads. ”And then two weeks after his re-introduction of the ‘prom court’ resolution, he was sacked. In the meeting with the student advisors, Reuben was specifically told he was being punished for pushing ‘policy changes,’ in addition to references to off-campus email conversations.”

B OF A EXECUTIVE COMES OUT AGAINST N.C. AMENDMENT ONE

Ahead of North Carolina’s May 8 vote on Amendment One, which will give voters the opportunity to prohibit marriage equality in the state’s constitution, one of Bank of America’s top executives has come out in opposition to the move, Business Week reports.

In a video posted on YouTube March 9, Catherine P. Bessant, a Bank of America global technology and operations executive, called the amendment a ”direct challenge to [North Carolina's] ability to compete nationally for jobs and economic growth,” and said that its passage could have a ”disastrous affect” on the state’s ability to retain its economic growth.

Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America scored a perfect score in the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) 2012 Corporate Equality Index. Bank of America, the second-largest bank holding company in the U.S., is also an HRC corporate partner.

”We’re in a war with other states across the country who would love to have the jobs that we have today,” Bessant said in the video.

http://www.metroweekly.com/news/?ak=7209

Aboriginal ex-Mountie joining sexual harassment lawsuit

29 Mar

A former RCMP officer who says she faced racism and bullying on the job is joining a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment against the police force.

Marge Hudson of Winnipeg told CBC News that she was approached by lawyers in Vancouver and Thunder Bay who have put together the lawsuit against the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Marge Hudson told CBC News in December that she left the RCMP in 2009, three decades after joining the police force as the first female aboriginal Mountie in Manitoba. (CBC)

Hudson said she in the process of preparing a statement of claim.

The legal team behind the RCMP lawsuit filed its statement of claim on Tuesday morning, naming one plaintiff — Janet Merlo, a former RCMP officer from Nanaimo, B.C.

But lawyers involved in the suit say up to 150 women are ready to join with their own stories of harassment and gender-based discrimination in the police force.

“I don’t want it to go unnoticed, as it has been for my 31 years in the RCMP. I think that things have to change in the RCMP,” Hudson said late Tuesday.

“Women are not just going to disappear … and they must treat us women fairly, which I know they haven’t. And that’s obvious to see, with 150 female members coming forward.”

1st aboriginal female Mountie

Hudson was the first aboriginal female Mountie in Manitoba when she joined the RCMP in 1979.

In an interview in December, Hudson said she experienced sexual harassment, racism, discrimination and bullying by fellow RCMP members.

Hudson said she never moved beyond the position of constable during her three decades in the force, while non-aboriginal officers climbed the ranks.

“Am I brown, is that the reason? Am I female, is that the reason?” she told the CBC’s Sheila North-Wilson in the interview.

“I had two shots against me right there — being aboriginal, being female.”

Hudson left the RCMP in 2009.

Received calls from other members

Since Hudson shared her story, she said she has received many calls from RCMP members — both female and male — with similar concerns.

“As close as last week, I got a call from a member that’s still in the RCMP, complaining of harassment and discrimination,” she said.

“Obviously the RCMP has not gotten the message,” she added. “They continue to sweep things under the rug, thinking that it’s just going to go away and disappear.”

In her statement of claim, Merlo alleges that she endured 20 years of sexual harassment, sexual pranks, lewd comments and double standards from male supervisors.

A judge will need to certify the sexual harassment lawsuit as a class action — a process that can take up to two years.

But Hudson said two years will be worth the wait to start seeing justice for herself and other women who have suffered harassment within the RCMP.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/story/2012/03/27/mb-rcmp-harassment-lawsuit-hudson.html

Teen Sues School, Ex-Classmate for Bullying

28 Mar


Mon Mar 26, 2012 3:32pm EDT

Time is supposed to heal all wounds. But that’s not the case for Eric Giray, who claims he was beaten by a school bully eight years ago — and has just filed a $1.5 million lawsuit against the school and the alleged bully.

Giray, now 19 and a sophomore at Brandeis University, alleges a fellow student bullied him for years while they attended the Calhoun School, a prestigious institution on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Giray’s suit names the bully and the school, which Giray claims was negligent, the New York Daily News reports.

So why did Giray wait eight years to sue the school and his alleged bully?

“Apparently they had spoken to an attorney at the time of the incident, who told them that filing a lawsuit like this could impact negatively on his ability to get into a college or university of his choice,” Eric Giray’s lawyer told New York’s 1010 WINS radio.

New York laws impose a three-year statute of limitations for civil personal-injury and negligence claims. But for injury victims who are children, the statute of limitations does not take effect until the child turns 18. So in Giray’s case, he had until age 21 to file his civil claims.

Giray’s alleged bully beating happened in October 2004, when classmate Daniel Dworakowski allegedly shoved Giray into the bleachers; Giray’s nose was broken and he got 18 stitches, according to the Daily News. Dworakowski also allegedly bullied Giray by calling him “gay” and making fun of Giray’s “elephant ears.”

Giray’s mother wrote an email to school administrators, who did not follow up, Giray’s lawsuit asserts. Calhoun School officials also failed to protect Giray and failed to institute an anti-bullying policy, the suit claims.

Alleged bully Dworakowski is now a sophomore at Cornell University. “Oh please, that was not a bullying,” Dworakowski’s mother told the Daily News. “A teacher told us it was an accident and nothing else.”

A jury may ultimately decide if she’s correct, or if Eric Giray’s alleged bully beating deserves compensation. But chances are Giray’s $1.5 million school-bullying lawsuit will be settled out of court.

Related Resources:

  • Teen Sues Prep School, Classmate Over Alleged Bullying (New York’s WNBC-TV)
  • State Civil Statute of Limitations Laws (FindLaw)
  • Are Bullying Lawsuits on the Rise? (FindLaw’s Law and Daily Life)
  • Dharun Ravi Convicted in Tyler Clementi Webcam Case (FindLaw’s Blotter)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/26/tagblogsfindlawcom2012-injured-idUS315808223920120326

Alexander Wang Calls Lawsuit Plaintiff A “Bully”

28 Mar




Alexander Wang is not a happy man. The young designer was accused by former employee Wenyu Lu of running a sweatshop. Lu, in a $50 million lawsuit against the designer, claims that he was forced to work 84-hour work weeks sewing Wang’s clothes. And, Lu alleges, he once passed out after working for 25 hours straight. Now the case is advancing forward, and will be refiled on the federal level.

Lu is one of 30 employees who filed the suit against Wang, claiming that he forced them to work in a windowless room for as much as 16 hours a day — without overtime. Lu also alleged that he suffered health issues including kidney stones while on the job. He says he was ultimately fired from the company in February, after, he claims, suffering substantial injuries while working on a project for Wang. 

Wang, who’s clothes and bags go for hundreds of dollars a pop, says that Lu is nothing more than a bully, and that Lu was actually fired for bullying other employees. In effect Wang’s rep are trying to claim that Lu is nothing more than a disgruntled ex-employee.

Said a rep for Wang, “The claims regarding sweatshop conditions are completely untrue. In reality, this case was filed by an individual who was let go by the company as a result of serious harassment issues. We stand by our decision to promote a safe workplace environment for all employees regardless of false claims that may be waged against us in retaliation.” [Telegraph]

http://www.thefrisky.com/2012-03-27/alexander-wang-calls-lawsuit-plaintiff-bully/

Ex-Mountie’s lawsuit accuses RCMP of bullying, sexual discrimination

28 Mar

A former Mountie has launched a class-action lawsuit against the RCMP, hoping to purge the “toxic” attitude against women within the male-dominated force, her lawyer says.

David Klein says more than 100 current and former female members from across Canada are preparing to stand behind the lawsuit alleging widespread sexual harassment.

The suit was filed Tuesday in B.C. Supreme Court on behalf of Janet Merlo and alleges she was subjected to persistent and ongoing gender-based discrimination by male members.

The 19-year-veteran spent most of her career at the Nanaimo detachment on the east coast of Vancouver Island and said the harassment started in 1992, just months into her job.

The lawsuit alleges she endured a series of sexist comments, sexual pranks, derogatory remarks and double standards.

In one instance, the court documents say she told her supervisor she was pregnant and he yelled at her.

“You had better get your priorities straight. You are either going to have a career in the RCMP, or you are going to pop out kids your whole life,” the unnamed officer said. “I have a suggestion for you; next time, keep your [expletive] legs closed.”

RCMP media spokesman Sergeant Greg Cox wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit, saying that because the case is before the court, a statement would be inappropriate.

The allegations in the court documents have not been proven in court.

Mr. Klein said the legal team has heard the same kinds of stories from women across the country.

“We’ve been contacted by dozens of women who are currently in the force and don’t want to be part of the class action but have provided us with encouragement to assist us with the case,” he said in an interview.

He said another 150 current and former members have expressed interest in participating in the case.

“They want change. They want to change this organization from one that is toxic to women to one that is accepting of them.”

Mr. Klein said the organization has been dominated by men for over 100 years and while these women know it takes time to change a culture, that time has long past.

“Part of the problem is that the complaints women made were not taken seriously by the force. They need a new structure and it’s something that has to occur top down.”

These women are hoping the lawsuit will spur a process that creates transparency and accountability within the force, he said.

Ms. Merlo said in a statement from her lawyer that it’s too late for change for her.

“But I hope that this lawsuit will bring about some positive change for women who are still with the RCMP and women who join the force.”

Last year, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson vowed to address complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace when the allegations first came to light.

He agreed that all Canadians were concerned about the allegations.

Just before Mr. Paulson spoke out, former high-profile RCMP media relations officer Catherine Galliford came forward in November to say she was repeatedly sexually harassed by male officers.

A class-action lawsuit must first be certified before it’s allowed to proceed. A judge must determine there is common ground between the complainants.

Mr. Klein said that process could take up to two years.

He expects dozens of women to join the legal action in that time. For now, Ms. Merlo is the representative plaintiff in the action.

The statement of claim says those involved knew or ought to have known that their conduct was the kind that would terrify a normal person, causing harm and humiliation.

The lawsuit outlines a long list of damages or injury including post-traumatic stress disorder, diminished self worth, attempted suicide, anxiety, feelings of guilt, insomnia and failed relationships.

“These injuries have caused and continue to cause the plaintiff and class members pain, suffering loss of enjoyment of life, permanent disability, loss of physical, mental and emotional health and loss of earnings, past and prospective,” said the statement of claim.

The lawsuit doesn’t specify damages, but asks for exemplary and punitive damages and recovery of health-care costs.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/british-columbia/ex-mounties-lawsuit-accuses-rcmp-of-bullying-sexual-discrimination/article2383538/

He sues school & student bully — 8 yrs. later!

26 Mar

A former student of the prestigious Calhoun School sued his alma mater and a former classmate yesterday charging that he was the victim of serious bullying.

In a lawsuit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, Eric Giray — now a sophomore at Brandeis University — accuses Daniel Dworakowski — now a sophomore at Cornell — of taunting him for years before shoving him into the school’s bleachers on Oct. 15, 2004.

Giray, who attended Calhoun for the sixth, seventh and eighth grades, broke his nose and needed 18 stitches to close the gashes, according to his attorney Ric Cherwin.

The incident came two weeks after Giray’s mother, Dr. Ayse Giray, a pediatrician, complained in two emails to school administrators that Dworakowski, a champion athlete, had repeatedly called her smaller son “gay” and told him he had “elephant ears.”

“I really don’t want him to be bullied again,” the mother wrote in a September 2004 email to Calhoun administrators.

Dworakowski’s mother, Elzbieta, told the Daily News yesterday that she was shocked that Giray had filed a lawsuit so many years after the event.

“Oh, please. That was not a bullying. That was just an accident. A teacher told us it was an accident and nothing else,” she said, her voice shaking with emotion.

Giray disagreed.

“On his life, Eric said Daniel with malice and intent in his eyes pushed Eric extremely hard and quickly so that Eric had no time to react and smashed him into the bleachers,” Cherwin said. “Eric said there is absolutely no way it could have been an accident, especially given the taunting over the months preceding the incident.”

In the lawsuit, Giray accused Calhoun of failing to respond to his mother’s bullying complaints, failing to protect him and not having an anti-bullying policy. He is seeking $1.5 million in damages.

bross@nydailynews.com

Minnesota Students Prove That ‘It Gets Better’

22 Mar

Five bullied students from Minnesota who won their challenge against the Anoka-Hennepin School District have a special message: It DOES Get Better.

Earlier this month, an agreement was reached to resolve two federal gender and sexual orientation harassment lawsuits brought against Anoka-Hennepin by six students. The agreement includes significant new protections designed to prevent harassment of students who are or perceived to be LGBT and gender non-conforming, as well as those who have friends or parents who are LGBT.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which sued on behalf of students, reports that under the decree, the students will receive a total of $270,000 in damages.

The district’s 18-year-old gag policy on sexual orientation was replaced last month with a policy designed to generate “a respectful learning environment in which teachers facilitate student discussions of contentious topics in a balanced and impartial manner.”

The District has faced national scrutiny because of a wave of teen suicides in the area, many of them at least partly related to bullying.

The Trevor Project, a leading charity on bullying of LGBT students, has described the successful lawsuit as “a historic paradigm shift” that will “create a blueprint for school safety that can be implemented nationwide.”

One of the students in the ‘It Gets Better’ video, Kyle Rooker, who had been called ‘fag’, slapped and urinated on, told local news:

“Basically, they ripped my heart out….I didn’t feel like someone with passion. Now I’ve stolen it back.”

The remaining plaintiff student, Ebonie Richardson, made a separate video.

Watch ‘MN’s Anoka-Hennepin Student Plaintiffs: It Gets Better’:

Related stories:

Student Who Challenged School’s Gay Gag Rule Speaks Out (VIDEO)

Anoka-Hennepin Settles LGBT Bullying Lawsuit, Still Denies Wrongdoing

Sixth Bullied Student Sues Minnesota School District

http://www.care2.com/causes/minnesota-students-prove-that-it-gets-better.html

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A victims advocacy organization alleging pressure from lawyers representing the Roman Catholic Church to hand over confidential documents related to clergy sex abuse cases claims the tactics being used are akin to “bullying” and “intimidation.” Church officials deny, however, that any tactics are being used to pressure the group. 

The advocacy group, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, has been uniting clergy sex abuse victims since 1991, offering counseling, group support and legal advisement. The group is known for having filed a lawsuit against top Vatican leaders, including Pope Benedict XVI, at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague in Sept. 2011.

When lawyers representing the Catholic Church in two sexual abuse cases, one in Kansas and one in Missouri, requested in Dec. 2011 that SNAP release confidential documents, including emails between the organization and abuse victims as well as whistle-blowers and witnesses, SNAP viewed the request as a form of harassment.

The case in St Louis, Mo., is currently “on hold” until May, but the one in Kansas City has been moving ahead more quickly, and on April 20 the court is expected to decide whether SNAP will have to reveal the emails, David Clohessy, SNAP’s national director and spokesman, told The Christian Post. Whatever the court’s decision, each side is likely to appeal, he added.

SNAP had already provided “hundreds of pages of documents” that were less confidential, Clohessy said, but “they [the Catholic Church lawyers] still want more.” The spokesman fears that once the information is released from SNAP, there is no telling who will have access to them, even if the court orders the documents to be sealed.

“We’re incredibly scared about what will happen to victims, witnesses, whistle-blowers, police, prosecutors, journalists and us, if the church defense lawyers win,” Clohessy told CP. All of those who cooperated with SNAP believe, and “understandably so, that their privacy will be protected,” he explained. If confidential emails between sources, victims and SNAP are released, it will have a “chilling effect” on their relations. 

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The demands arise from two civil lawsuits, one titled “Jane Doe v. Fr. Joseph D. Ross and the St. Louis Archdiocese” and another called “John Doe BP v. Fr. Michael Tierney and the Kansas City Diocese.” The St. Louis suit charges that Ross molested the plaintiff, a young female, between 1997 and 2001 at St. Cronan’s Catholic Church in St. Louis. In 1988, Ross also reportedly pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting an 11-year-old boy. SNAP accused the Catholic Church of placing the clergyman at St. Cronan’s without having warned anyone of his criminal past. Ross remained a spiritual leader until as recently as 2002, according to SNAP.

The Kansas City suit charges that Tierney molested a boy. At least four other accusers in separate lawsuits have reportedly come forward against Tiereny and he was suspended last year because church officials deemed some of the allegations credible, according to SNAP.

Lawyers in both cases are demanding SNAP disclose proofs of communication dating back years.

SNAP’s Clohessy was deposed from the Kansas case in January by attorneys representing the church. Until then, most of the questions directed at him in court were not about the case but about the network — its budget, board of directors, staff members, donors and operating procedures, according to The New York Times.

“It was not a fishing expedition,” Clohessy told the Times then. “It was a fishing, crabbing, shrimping, trash-collecting, draining-the-pond expedition. The real motive is to harass and discredit and bankrupt SNAP, while discouraging victims, witnesses, whistle-blowers, police, prosecutors and journalists from seeking our help.”

Recently, the president of the U.S. Catholic League, William Donohue, added to the controversy by suggesting to the press that requests for documentation are a part of the Catholic Church’s new, “toughened up” national strategy. Donohue suggested leading bishops he knew had resolved to fight back more aggressively against SNAP.

“The bishops have come together collectively. I can’t give you the names, but there’s a growing consensus on the part of the bishops that they had better toughen up and go out and buy some good lawyers to get tough. We don’t need altar boys,” Donohue told the Times last week. He also called SNAP a “menace to the Catholic Church.”

Although a spokeswoman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops denied that there is a “national strategy” of the sort, Donohue’s testimony helped strengthen SNAP members’ conviction that the Catholic Church is attempting to target them. The group has launched an online petition addressed to Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, asking him to put a halt to “bullying tactics used by bishops and church defense lawyers against those seeking help from the support group SNAP.” 

“We’ve been out for 23 years,” but the records have never been asked for until now, Clohessy told CP. “And now, twice in a matter of weeks, we’re hit with these legal assaults.”

Donohue of the U.S. Catholic League also reportedly said that bishops were rethinking the Catholic Church’s approach of paying large settlements to groups of victims. “The church has been too quick to write a check, and I think they’ve realized it would be a lot less expensive in the long run if we fought them one by one,” he was quoted saying.

It is not clear how much money annually the Catholic Church spends on court cases related to sex scandals.

According to a 2004 report, there were approximately 10,667 reported victims (younger than 18 years old) of clergy sexual abuse between 1950 and 2002. According to a 2011 John Jay Report, The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010, the peak in such lawsuits occurred in 2002. A great majority of the victims in the U.S. scandal were male.

The report states that clergy sexual abuse of minors in the American Catholic Church is a historical problem with the vast majority of cases occurring from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s. About 94 percent of all cases occurred before 1990 and some 70 percent of clergy offenders were ordained as priests before 1970. The fact that actual assaults occurred years ago tends to be a complication in legal proceedings, especially as the statute of limitations and often deaths of alleged predators or witnesses make lawsuits impossible.

When the major sex abuse scandal erupted in 2002, the bishops met at their conference in Dallas with SNAP members who gave emotional testimonies about the toll of the alleged abuse. But relations have deteriorated since then, and SNAP members say bishops now refuse to meet with them. 

The U.S. Catholic Church has since undertaken a campaign of rebuilding the public’s trust, including initiatives such as the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” written to better define abuse and prevent it.

http://www.christianpost.com/news/catholic-church-accused-of-bullying-organization-representing-clergy-sex-abuse-victims-71786/

Kemp Mill Elementary School employees sue principal for harassment

22 Mar

Six former and current employees at Kemp Mill Elementary School have filed a lawsuit against the principal and the Montgomery County Board of Education, citing “unabated and outrageous bullying” and negligence by the board for doing nothing to stop it.

The principal, Floyd Starnes, began working at the Silver Spring school in July 2007. Since then, the teachers and staff say morale has plummeted.

According to the complaint, filed in Montgomery County Circuit Court Tuesday, the principal subjected the teachers to unwanted touching, verbal abuse, harassment, and retaliation. The complaint also alleges that Starnes failed to report suspected child abuse or crack down on student bullying.

In a system-wide school climate survey issued every year, the portion of teachers who said they would recommend Kemp Mill as a good place to work dropped from 100 percent to only 10 percent, from the year before Starnes’ arrival to the 2010-2011 school year, according to the lawsuit.

Montgomery schools spokesman Dana Tofig confirmed that the complaints about the principal have been brought up before. “But they were investigated and found to have little or no merit,” he said.

Doug Prouty, president of the Montgomery County Education Association, said that union representatives made extra visits to the school in recent years “to work to make sure there’s a positive work environment.”

A press statement released by the teachers’ attorney Robert J. Weltcheck, said that the plaintiffs are seeking monetary damages, “but would much prefer for the Board of Education to ‘step up to the plate’ and terminate Principal Starnes.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/maryland-schools-insider/post/kemp-mill-elementary-school-employees-sue-principal-for-harassment/2012/03/21/gIQAtVVeSS_blog.html

Apple and Microsoft: Frenemies beat back Android axis in mobile patents

20 Mar




Tech giants are unlikely allies in fighting unfair use of mobile standards

Follow @MobileGalen

For over a year now, we’ve been hearing about the mobile patent lawsuits involving Apple, HTC, Microsoft, Motorola Mobility, Samsung, and other key tech companies. For most of us, it seemed like legal mumbo-jumbo and schoolyard bullying by all concerned. But there’ve been a bunch of court decisions and revelations recently that have made clear what’s really at stake and why we all should care.

I’m also convinced now that Apple is mainly in the right and its Android competitors are playing dirty. No wonder Microsoft has joined in on Apple’s defense. When all is said and done, the Apple/Microsoft argument should win; fortunately in the courts, it appears that it may. (A big shout-out goes to the FOSS Patents blog, whose author Florian Mueller — an experienced patent attorney — has over the months provided an amazing education on all the issues involved.)

[ Read InfoWorld's primer on mobile management tools, then go deep with our BYOD and Mobile Deep Dive. | Keep up on key mobile developments and insights via Twitter and with the Mobile Edge blog and Mobilize newsletter. ]

The patent cases that got the attention but aren’t the main show
The case that got most of the media attention was Apple’s lawsuit against Samsung for copying its design patents. In simple English: Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 was designed to look like an iPad, and Apple cried foul at that potential market confusion. There are several kinds of patents a company can hold to give them a monopoly on their “nonobvious” ideas — their inventions — and one is for the design of a product. Such design patents are common for apparel, handbags, furniture, wristwatches, and the like; they’re meant to prevent a goods maker from cloning a competitor’s design to fool buyers.

Design-conscious Apple also uses design patents to ensure that competing products look different. That’s why Motorola Mobility smartphones and tablets have that distinct corner shape — you know instantly that they’re Motorola products and, as important, not Apple ones. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1, the first real challenger to the iPad, by contrast looks a lot like an Apple iPad. Apple’s sure that was intentional — and that Samsung is doing more of it since their legal fight began. Most courts appeared to agree with Apple so far on the basics (it looked obvious to me), though they don’t seem to believe that Apple’s design patents protect as much as Apple would like.

Then there are the skirmishes over technology patents that one company claims another has violated. Sometimes these are justified, as may be the case in Motorola Mobility’s suit against Apple (and Microsoft) related to push notification patents. Other times — as in HTC’s suits against Apple — they appear to be a convenient legal weapon meant to get a settlement from a company unwilling to fight.

As has been clear over the last year, Apple is more than willing to fight, so anyone using patents as a negotiation technique against Apple has likely come to regret doing so. Also, Apple has decided to push the issues, which has resulted in gaining or strengthening patent rights in a way that its Android-based competitors may eventually regret.

http://www.infoworld.com/d/mobile-technology/apple-and-microsoft-frenemies-beat-back-android-axis-in-mobile-patents-187605

Minn. schools agree to fight LGBT bullying

20 Mar

Sam Wolfe

SAINT PAUL, Minn. – A settlement has been reached among the federal government, LGBT students and the Anoka-Hennepin School District in Minnesota, resolving complaints of sex- and sexual orientation- based harassment of students. Minnesota’s largest school district has agreed to adopt a wide-ranging plan to protect LGBT students from bullying and harassment, in a settlement that will resolve a Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) lawsuit.

The SPLC sued the Anoka-Hennepin district in July on behalf of five students who faced a constant torrent of anti-gay slurs due to their actual or perceived sexual orientation. Students were also physically attacked – in some cases choked, shoved, urinated on and even stabbed with a pencil.

The lawsuit charged that the school district’s “gag” policy – which hampered the efforts of teachers to address the harassment – stigmatized gay and lesbian students and helped perpetuate the abuse. In several cases, officials told the harassed students to “lay low” or “try to stay out of people’s way.”

A consent decree has been approved by the Anoka-Hennepin School Board in suburban Minnesota.

The consent decree requires the district to take steps to prevent and address bullying experienced by LGBT students, including the appointment of an equity coordinator to ensure proper implementation of the district’s sexual orientation-based harassment policies and procedures. While the consent decree requires the district to revise its gag policy, which barred teachers and administrators from addressing sexual orientation and gender identity, the school district had already revised the policy in mid-February.

“This historic agreement marks a fresh start for the Anoka-Hennepin School District,” said SPLC attorney Sam Wolfe. “Unfortunately, this district had become notorious for anti-LGBT hostility and discrimination. This consent decree sets the stage for Anoka-Hennepin to become a model for other school districts to follow.”

“No one should have to go through the kind of harassment that I did,” said Dylon Frei, one of the plaintiffs in the SPLC case. “I am happy this agreement includes real changes that will make our schools safer and more welcoming for other kids.”

“This settlement is a wakeup call for school districts that are ignoring bullying and harassment of LGBT students,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese.


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