West Lutheran High School in Plymouth was ordered Thursday to implement "significant" changes to how it handles sexual assault, harassment and bullying claims as part of a settlement of a lawsuit brought by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.
The department filed suit against the school in 2019 after it discovered school officials had ignored a female student's claims that she was sexually harassed and assaulted several times by fellow students during the 2014-15 school year.
The student's father made a discrimination complaint against West Lutheran High School on behalf of his daughter, who was then a minor, according to a consent decree approved by Hennepin County District Judge Thomas Fraser. The Human Rights Department accused school administrators of retaliating against the girl and asking her to leave.
A subsequent department investigation found that West Lutheran High School had violated the Minnesota Human Rights Act prohibiting discrimination.
West Lutheran High School President Mark Kaesmeyer said the resolution is "significant and brings positive change" but declined to comment further, citing an ongoing civil suit with the student's family.
Under the settlement, the school must conduct a policy review and revise its student handbook to require that complaints of discrimination, harassment and bullying are thoroughly investigated.
In addition, the school must provide training on the state's discrimination laws, with an emphasis on harassment and bullying, to its students, faculty, staff and board members. Class curriculum will also incorporate harassment and bullying as topics to ensure that students adhere to the state's discrimination guidelines.
Department of Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero said the settlement "sends a message to other schools across the state that they have an obligation to actively address and prevent bullying and sexual violence."
The school is required to report all future complaints of bullying, harassment and discrimination to the Department of Human Rights, as well as the steps it took to investigate and conclude the complaints. It must abide by the settlement's proposed changes for the next three years. The department could take further legal action against the school if it violates the settlement.
West Lutheran, according to its website, is affiliated with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod and moved to its 6-acre campus in Plymouth in 1996.
Henry Erlandson • 612-673-4000