A Berkeley High counselor will be placed on a seven-day suspension this summer over allegations of sexual misconduct with a student in the 2009-2010 school year.
The decision resulted from a claim filed last year with the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing by former Berkeley High student "Lilah R.," who said Anthony Smith engaged in sexual misconduct during the 2009-10 school year.
The student also filed a separate federal sexual harassment lawsuit. The Berkeley Unified School District board voted earlier this year to approve a settlement of $57,500 and imposed certain work conditions on Smith.
Lilah R. (a fictitious name) was a 16-year-old junior at Berkeley High when she said she was "subjected to serious, persistent and pervasive conduct of a sexual nature by Smith, including caressing her inner thigh, asking if she slept naked, saying he would like to "share feelings" with her, and inviting her to work out with him. according to a press release issued by her attorney, Stephen Rosenbaum.
Smith denied the charges. However, a district investigation found Smith's conduct to be “inappropriate and unprofessional.”
Smith’s suspension does not go into effect on June 30, said the commission spokeswoman Anne Padilla. Its brevity speaks to Smith's credibility, his lawyer said.
“If they really thought he had subjected her to actual abuse, they would have subjected him to more than a seven-day suspension,” Mark Davis told the Daily Californian.
The student said she was glad that the commission "took action." However, "I'm concerned because Berkeley hasn't told us yet whether he has even signed the statement agreeing to abide by the terms of our settlement," she said via Rosenbaum.
The settlement requires Smith to keep his office door open and blinds up when students are in his office, except under certain limited circumstances, and prohibits him from pulling students out of class without the permission of an administrator.
Rosenbaum expressed doubt that Smith would abide by the terms without "vigilance from the entire school community."
The settlement also requires the district to update its Student Handbook to offer guidelines for students reporting sexual harassment. An advisory committee of parents and district staff has begun meeting to shore up the sexual harassment policy and is planning training workshops for students, parents and staff, to begin in the fall.