Frost v. Hesperia Unified School District

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Julie Frost
Status: Closed
Court:
San Bernardino County Superior Court, California
Issues: Employment and Rights in the Workplace

Case representing non-closeted lesbian high school English teacher whose contract was not renewed at a Southern California high school after two years of discrimination and harassment due to her support of LGBT students and her sexual orientation.

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Julia Frost was an experienced high school English teacher who most recently taught at Sultana High School in the Hesperia (Calif.) Unified School District. Ms. Frost, a non-closeted lesbian who had taught for 16 years, started at Sultana High in August 2011 and almost from day one was subjected to discrimination and harassment because of her sexual orientation.

She was repeatedly singled out by the principal and other top administrators, even though the actions they questioned were appropriate and the same as the actions of heterosexual teachers. Ms. Frost also witnessed frequent criticism and open hostility directed at lesbian, gay and gender-nonconforming students in the hallways and classrooms. As both a teacher and co-advisor to the Sultana High Gay/Straight Alliance, she helped these students understand how to file formal complaints as provided for by California law. She also witnessed these students’ disillusionment as their complaints went unaddressed.

It was immediately after helping one student access the paperwork to make a complaint, in February of 2013, that Ms. Frost was notified her contract would not be renewed even though up to that point she had received five very positive performance reviews. Shortly thereafter, in March 2013, Sultana High School’s hostile environment for lesbian, gay and gender-nonconforming students came into public view when the ACLU of Southern California sent a letter to Hesperia USD on behalf of the Sultana GSA student club describing pervasive discrimination, harassment and censorship. Hesperia USD agreed to take corrective action to address the hostile environment for students at Sultana. But the District did not taken similar action to reinstate the dedicated teacher who had supported them.

Lambda Legal filed suit on behalf of Julia Frost in the San Bernardino County Superior Court presenting a series of legal claims under California laws forbidding harassment of and discrimination against lesbian, gay and gender-nonconforming individuals. The claims addressed the discriminatory ending of Ms. Frost’s employment and unlawful retaliation against her — contrary to the Fair Employment and Housing Act and the Education Code — for protecting lesbian, gay and gender-nonconforming students and advising them how to exercise their free speech rights.

After thorough preparation of the case for trial, the parties agreed to resolve the dispute with Hesperia USD paying $850,000 to Ms. Frost.