Federal Court Upholds $1 Million Jury Award For Latino Harassed In High School
Anthony Zeno endured 3 1/2 years of racial intimidation and harassment at Pine Plains High School in upstate New York.
“We conclude there was sufficient evidence in the record to support the jury’s finding that the District’s responses to student harassment of Anthony amounted to deliberate indifference to discrimination,” Judge Denny Chin wrote for the unanimous panel.
In his freshman year of high school, Mr. Zeno transferred from Long Island to Stissing Mountain High School in Pine Plains, New York. The school had minority attendance of less than five percent, and many students used Zeno’s ethnic heritage as a basis to taunt, harass, menace, and physically assault him.
“His peers made frequent pejorative references to his skin tone, calling him a ‘nigger’ nearly every day,” Judge Chin said.
“They also referred to him as ‘homey’ and ‘gangster,’ while making reference to his ‘hood’ and ‘fake rapper bling bling.’ ”
Chin continued: “He received explicit threats as well as implied threats, such as references to lynching.”
…in his senior year, rather than continue to face the harassment, Zeno left the school and earned an equivalency degree. He also filed a lawsuit against the school district for violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which bars recipients of federal funding from engaging in racial discrimination.
To prevail, Zeno’s lawyer had to prove that district officials were “deliberately indifferent” to the ongoing racial harassment of students over whom they exerted control.