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SPH Wins Case for High School Sexual Harassment Victim Accused of Defamation

sexual harassment

Not all sexual harassment victims appear in court as plaintiffs. During her Spring 2018 semester, female high school student “R” was receiving unwelcome sexual comments and attention from her teacher, “B.” Ultimately, R complained to her pediatrician about B’s conduct, which the doctor reported to R’s parents. R’s parents immediately contacted the high school. An investigation conducted by the school came back inconclusive and B was permitted to return to teaching. R, meanwhile, had to deal with swirling rumors and innuendos about what had happened, which turned her high school into a toxic and painful place for her.

Rather than just accepting that he escaped any real consequences, B had the audacity to sue R for defamation. Even worse, B also sued R’s parents for defamation, claiming that they were wrong to report R’s concerns and should have questioned their own daughter’s credibility.

B’s lawsuit was a terrible abuse of our judicial system. Schwartz Perry & Heller took on R and her parents as clients and immediately countersued for sexual harassment and retaliation. After a period of limited discovery, we made a motion seeking dismissal of B’s claims in their entirety.

We are pleased to report that, on October 18, 2022, we learned that the Court granted our motion to dismiss B’s claims for defamation. Justice Verna L. Saunders of the New York State Supreme Court, New York County, recognized that B would have to prove that R’s allegations were false in order to succeed on a defamation claim, which he could never prove. The court rejected B’s claim that R fabricated allegations of sexual harassment because she wanted “revenge” against him for reporting her skipping class as speculative, and recognized “the real possibility of persons being afraid to report sexual crimes due to fears of retaliation, including defamation suits.”

The court also found that R’s parents had a moral and legal duty to report their daughter’s concerns of discrimination, so that their reporting those concerns to the school was privileged, noting, “A parent is morally obligated to protect his/her child and take immediate action when faced with information such as that presented here.”

While we are disappointed this case was ever brought to court, we are proud to have achieved a result that will protect future victims against bogus claims like those brought against R and her parents. The only claims that remain in this lawsuit are R’s valid claims against B.