INFORMATION REGARDING LAWSUIT BETWEEN T.S. et al. v. RBJUHSD
Earlier this year, six female students initiated a class action lawsuit against Red Bluff Joint Union High School District in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, designated Case No. 2:17-cv-00489. The lawsuit alleged violations of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 by the District related to the RBHS athletics program. While the District disagrees with all of the allegations raised in the lawsuit, in order to put an end to this costly and time consuming litigation, and without admitting any liability of any kind, RBJUHSD has settled this matter. A copy of the settlement agreement is below.
It is RBJUHSD’s goal that all students are provided the opportunity for a quality education and extra-curricular experience at Red Bluff High School. It is because of that goal that the district is excited to get behind the recent Title IX agreement and support the implementation of measures to ensure there is opportunity for female athletes to participate in athletics. Every female athlete deserves to be afforded the same opportunities and experiences as male athletes, from scheduling athletic events to comparable locker rooms. Administration, teachers, coaches, and staff are committed to fully implementing the agreement and increasing the number of female athletes participating on teams. We also look forward to the improvements of particular athletic facilities including the locker rooms and softball fields.
It is also important to note that the agreement does not call for RBHS to change its mascot, nor does it call for taking down any Spartan signs or statues. The recent painting over of Buckie the Spartan outside the girls’ locker room was due to miscommunication between the superintendent and the maintenance department.
RBJUHSD knows that its students, teachers, coaches, administration, and staff will continue to work together to improve all of its programs as well as the girls’ athletics program, and provide the best opportunity for all students and athletes to make Red Bluff High School the best it can be.
The information contained here is meant to answer some of the questions RBJUHSD has received on this matter.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How much money did the plaintiffs receive in the settlement?
The plaintiffs received no money. This was an injunctive relief case, meaning that the plaintiffs were claiming the RBHS athletics program was out of compliance with Title IX, and they sought to change the way the District managed the athletics program so that it would become compliant in their opinion.
How much money did the plaintiffs’ attorneys receive in the settlement?
As part of the settlement, the District agreed to pay the plaintiffs’ attorneys $282,500.00 (Two Hundred Eighty Two Thousand Five Hundred Dollars and Zero Cents). The plaintiffs hired two law firms to represent them in this lawsuit - Siegel, Yee, and Brunner, and Legal Aid at Work. How the Plaintiff’s attorneys elect to distribute the $282,500.00 amongst themselves in unknown.
Did RBJUHSD’s insurance provider assist in paying for the settlement and attorneys’ fees?
Yes. RBJUHSD is part of a Joint Powers Authority (“JPA”) for risk management insurance. Coverage on injunctive relief cases allows for a maximum of $100,000 for attorneys’ fees and possible settlement amounts combined.
How much additional money did RBJUHSD pay its attorneys to defend this lawsuit?
Through September, the District has used approximately $85,000 of the $100,000 insurance limit towards its defense in this case. Fees for October and November have not been reported as of this publication.
When was this lawsuit filed and by whom?
Because the plaintiffs in this lawsuit are minors, their identities are protected from disclosure.
What law firms were involved in this lawsuit?
The plaintiffs’ attorneys were Siegel, Yee, and Brunner, and Legal Aid at Work. RBJUHSD was represented by Leone and Alberts. Leone and Alberts was assigned to handle this matter by the District’s risk insurance JPA of NCSIG.
Was RBJUHSD investigating a Title IX complaint prior to the lawsuit?
Yes. On January 31, 2017, the District received a letter that was considered to be a Title IX complaint. While the individual who filed the letter did so separately and apart from the plaintiffs filing this lawsuit, many of the claims raised in that letter were included in the lawsuit. In regards to the letter, the District followed the required complaint procedure according to its policy, and in doing so chose to address the issues raised in the letter in the course of resolving the plaintiffs’ lawsuit.
Was RBJUHSD found to have violated the law?
No. RBJUHSD has always strived, and will continue to strive, to be Title IX compliant. RBJUHSD firmly believes that this lawsuit was unnecessary and that RBJUHSD would have prevailed if this case continued and was either decided through a motion to dismiss or by a jury at trial.
As the settlement agreement in this litigation states:
“By entering into this Agreement, Plaintiffs acknowledge, individually and collectively, that it is the position of Defendant that it has not engaged in, or is now engaging in, any unlawful conduct. Plaintiffs understand and agree, individually and collectively, that this Agreement is not an admission of liability by Defendant, and that Defendant specifically denies liability in the Action and intends merely to avoid further litigation and expense by entering into this Agreement.”
Why did RBJUHSD settle the lawsuit rather than continue to fight and win the case?
Settling this lawsuit in no way means, nor should it be inferred, that RBJUHSD believes it violated any laws, or that RBJUHSD believes that the plaintiffs’ case was valid or likely to succeed. The decision to settle this lawsuit was largely financial, and was made in the best financial interest of RBJUHSD’s students, employees, and the community. Further, RBJUHSD believes the settlement agreement’s terms are consistent with RBJUHSD’s already existing vision and programs related to athletics.
The lawsuit cost RBJUHSD approximately $100,000 in attorneys’ fees, and staff spent hundreds of hours responding to discovery requests. During the eight months of the litigation, the parties had begun the discovery process, but was far from completing it. At the time of the settlement, the plaintiffs had not yet filed a motion to qualify the case as a class action lawsuit, nor had RBJUHSD filed a motion for summary judgment seeking to dismiss the lawsuit. The District believes that had the case proceeded through trial, it would have cost RBJUHSD approximately $1 million dollars.
It should be noted that under the law, even if RBJUHSD won this case outright, as it believes it would have, it would have been incredibly unlikely that RBJUHSD would have been able to recover any of the attorneys’ fees it had to pay to defend itself in this lawsuit. With this in mind, continuing to spend taxpayer dollars to defend a case for which RBJUHSD would most likely not recover any of the funds spent, even if RBJUHSD won the case, was an unjustifiable use of taxpayer dollars that should be used for the education of students.
The responsibility of the RBJUHSD’s Board of Trustees and administrators is to protect the District and its fiscal resources so as to ensure that students are the District’s top priority, and that taxpayer dollars for education are spent on education. In order to protect taxpayer dollars, the District decided to settle the case so that no more public funds would be spent on lawsuit costs and attorneys’ fees.
Does settling the lawsuit mean that RBJUHSD lost?
No. RBJUHSD maintains that it has not violated the law. Settling the case simply means that RBJUHSD no longer wishes to spend any more taxpayer money – meant for education and students – on attorneys’ fees and costs associated with defending against this litigation. Further, over the last eight months, hundreds of hours were spent by RBJUHSD administrators and staff members on the defense of this lawsuit. Settling this case not only stopped the financial burden, but has freed RBJUSHD staff to return their full attention and time to the education of students.
Why did this lawsuit receive so much media and social media attention?
Allegations of wrongdoing and controversy are considered newsworthy to some, regardless of how factually inaccurate the accusations may be. Although RBJUHSD may not always agree with statements made in the media and social media, RBJUHSD respects the First Amendment.
Why has this lawsuit gone on for such a long time?
This lawsuit involved numerous plaintiffs, thousands of documents, and legal issues that have required considerable time and effort to address. It was possible that this lawsuit could have continued for another one to two years at a substantial cost – estimated at an additional $1 million or more – to the District if it did not settle the case now.
Apart from attorneys’ fees, what else does the settlement agreement cover?
The settlement agreement memorializes efforts related to improving female participation in sports, upgrading the softball facilities, and making other changes to the RBHS athletics program. Though plaintiffs’ allegations were voluminous the actual changes RBJUHSD agreed to make are set out in the attached copy of the settlement agreement.