Lebanon schools pay $150,000 to settle racial discrimination case

Four former Lebanon City Schools students, their families and lawyer split $150,000 from the school district in settlement of a racial harassment case filed more than two years ago.

The school district also agreed to take a series of steps to settle cases filed more than two years ago with the U.S. Department of Education as part of the legal action claiming bullying and racist treatment at the junior and senior high school in 2015.

“The Lebanon City School District is glad to have this case finally settled. The allegations referenced in the case occurred a few years ago and have led to a greater awareness throughout the school community. We have been working with the Midwest and Plains Equity Assistance Center for over two years and will continue to engage our students and faculty in diverse and global education,” Superintendent Todd Yohey said in a statement.

The settlement pays each of four students $37,500, including moving and other expenses and payments into trust funds. Lawyer Robert Newman received $50,000 in attorney fees.

“There were moving expenses which involved the payment of double rent in the case of 2 families –because all 3 families were compelled to move out of Lebanon because of what happened to them at the junior high school,” Newman said in an email.

Trust funds because the children are minors so the money is deposited in a trust account for their availability when they are 18. They may apply to probate court before then for funds for special needs which have to be approved by probate court,” Newman added.

The settlement was paid from insurance held by the school district.

In one complaint filed with the department’s Office of Civil Rights, the mother of two biracial children alleged bullying and racial slurs in and outside school. School officials disciplined a student and cleaned a slur off a bathroom wall after one incident.

A racist posting on the Instagram social network in March 2015 was directed at a boy at the junior high school. Then-Superintendent Mark North said district officials determined the incident involved activity off school grounds and referred Allen to police.

Another complaint noted multiple incidents of harassment and bullying of a girl by students and teachers at Lebanon High School.

In a settlement a week ago with the federal office, the district also agreed to issue an anti-harassment statement sent to parents, published in district newsletters and posted in prominent locations in the community and on the district website.

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In addition, the district is to revise its policies on racial discrimination and harassment and provide an employee training program on racial discrimination and harassment for approval by the federal office.

Also, the district is to form districtwide and student committees to “foster a positive educational climate free of racial discrimination and harassment,” according to the settlement signed on Aug. 22 by Yohey.

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“This agreement will become effective immediately upon the signature of the district’s representative below,” according to the settlement.

The school district has already been working on building diversity awareness for two years, said Yohey, hired by the district in June 2016.

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Most of the claims involved the junior high, although there were claims involving the high school and messages posted on the Instagram social network.

The settlements were approved by the Warren County Probate Court.

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