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UPDATE: Judge Rules Against Mercer Island School District in Discrimination Case

Administrative Law Judge Michelle C. Mentzer ruled on Oct. 15 in Seattle that the Mercer Island School District failed to resolve complaints of racial discrimination concerning a seventh-grader at Islander Middle School.

Update, Wednesday 12:00 p.m.: The following is a statement from Dr. Gary Plano, Mercer Island School District Superintendent, in response to the Oct. 15 decision finding the school district responsible for the discrimination of a middle school student at Islander Middle School (the judge's final order can be reviewed by clicking on the attached as a PDF file to the right of this story):

“The Mercer Island School District serves a diverse community and is committed to providing an educational environment free from any discrimination, including student-on-student, harassment and bullying. The school board, administration and staff all share this commitment.
The District respectfully disagrees with the administrative law judge’s determination.  The teachers and administrators in this situation took immediate action to address the situation in the fall of 2011, and we worked extensively with the family and school community.  These measures have been effective.
The District is reviewing with legal counsel whether to appeal the decision and due to anticipated litigation has no further comment at this time.”

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Original Story: A Seattle judge ruled the Mercer Island School District violated state nondiscrimination statutes in an Oct. 15 ruling after failing to resolve complaints of racial discrimination at Islander Middle School.

This is a Mercer Island Patch Breaking News Alert.

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Administrative Law Judge Michelle C. Mentzer ordered the school district to implement training and conduct anti-harassment programs targeted toward racial and ethnic diversity to remedy "a hostile environment" at Islander Middle School, which the judge concluded was discrimination by the MISD because it "acted with deliberate indifference to the student's reports of discriminatory harassment."

Mercer Island Patch contacted the MISD Wednesday morning for comment and a response by the school district is expected shortly.

The parents of the student, who was a seventh grader at the time, filed a complaint with the school district concerning two incidents of ethnic and racial harrassment in October 2011. They appealed a decisions by MISD Superintendent Dr. Gary Plano and by the district Board of Directors in 2012 to the administrative court through the State Office of Public Instruction.

The board allowed the appeal of the Superintendent's decision to move forward on Jan. 12 after it was filed late, and extended the timeline of 10 days to refer to "business days" rather than "calendar days". The board then denied the appeal on Feb. 15, finding no policies had been violated and that there was no "significant" evidence of harassment or discrimination.

The parents disputed the MISD and school board's decision that absolved the district staff and administrators who had handled their son’s complaints of any wrongdoing, despite their errors in implementing district policies and procedures, as well as deficiencies in the district policies and procedures.

The parents said in a press release that repeated attempts to settle the matter with the District prior to the hearing were rebuffed by District administration and officials.

The names of the parents and the student are not identified in the court documents due to state privacy laws concerning State Office of Adminstrative Hearing orders.

The school district can petition the court to reconsider its decision within 10 days or appeal the decision in Superior Court.

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