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Mercer Island School District Appeals Discrimination Ruling

Islander Middle School parent Robin Wilt — whose son was subject to a "hostile environment", according to the ruling — slams the MISD's appeal as "hubris".

The Mercer Island School District filed an appeal on Nov. 9 with King County Superior Court seeking to overturn an administrative judge's ruling that the MISD had violated state nondiscrimination statutes.

The district’s filing states that the Administrative Law Judge Michelle C. Mentzer's Oct. 15 ruling was not supported by substantial evidence and was arbitrary and capricious.

“The District respectfully disagrees with the ALJ’s legal and factual determinations regarding this situation and is therefore appealing," wrote Mercer Island Schools Superintendent Dr. Gary Plano in a press release. “Regardless of the initial ruling, the district has in place a comprehensive educational program to provide a school environment free from any discrimination that includes ongoing workshops, curriculum and awareness building activities for students and staff throughout the year.”

Judge Mentzer ordered that the school district must implement training and conduct anti-harassment programs targeted toward racial and ethnic diversity to remedy "a hostile environment" at Islander Middle School.

The alleged incidents of racial harassment affecting Wilt's son at Islander Middle School was reported in late 2011.

“This appeal demonstrates the intransigence, fiscal imprudence, and quite frankly, hubris of the Mercer Island School District," said Robin Wilt, the parent of the student whose complaint was ruled to have been mishandled by the district. "The district would rather spend tens of thousands of dollars on attorneys’ fees than accede to the estimated 21 staff-hours of training for the good of the entire Mercer Island school community,”

Robin and Nicholas Wilt also filed a civil suit against the school district, according to the Mercer Island Reporter, but a judge dismissed their case on technical grounds. MISD Superintendent Plano said he expected the civil suit against the school district will be refiled shortly.   

"The Wilt’s are seeking far more than school district training, and our appeal is designed to protect the school district from these claims that we believe they are unsubstantiated," Plano said.

Wilt also emailed Mercer Island Patch a public records document from the MISD indicating that the school district has already spent $50,000 in legal fees in its handling of the discrimination complaint and subsequent appeal of its actions to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The District previously acknowledged during the previous hearing that errors had been made in implementing district policies and procedures, as well as deficiencies in the district policies and procedures, and updated them in May of 2012. 

“In this instance the teachers and administrators took immediate steps to address the incident and worked closely with the family," said Plano. "Additionally, the school district board and I oversaw two investigations which both determined that appropriate actions had been taken to address the complaint.”

In a press release issued by the Witt family, they claimed that the district’s failure to adhere to state law in its handling of the student’s complaint of racial harassment ultimately contributed to the judge’s finding of its deliberate indifference to the student-on-student racial harassment and culpability under nondiscrimination statutes.

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