Mongelli v. Red Clay Consolidated School District

In Mongelli v. Red Clay Consol. Sch. Dist., the Plaintiff, a former high school special education teacher, claimed that she had been the victim of “sexual harassment” by a student and that she there after suffered retaliation for her alleged “complaints.” Mongelli claimed that she suffered sexual harassment by a special education student during a twelve-day period and that the student’s behavior created a hostile work environment. In addition to acting and making sexually suggestive remarks, Mongelli alleged that on one occasion he physically touched her in a sexually oriented manner.

In an opinion dated, June 4, 2007, the U.S. District Court for Delaware granted the school’s Motion for Summary Judgment. Relying on EEOC guidelines suggesting that an employer may be liable for harassment by non-employees if reasonably subject to the employer’s control, the Court recognized the legal theory that the school district could be liable for student harassment of a teacher. The Court ruled, however, that the student's behaviors were not sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile work environment. Importantly, in reaching this conclusion, the Court relied on United States Supreme Court precedent focusing on the need for "careful consideration of the social context in which particular behavior occurs and is experienced by its target." Here, the identity of the harasser—a special education student, and the classroom setting, established that a reasonable person would not have been detrimentally affected.

The Court also rejected Mongelli's retaliation claim because the standard student disciplinary referral forms that she submitted did not constitute protected activity under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Instead, as a teacher, she was supposed to submit such forms “as a matter of course when students misbehaved.” Notably, Mongelli did not file a complaint under her employer’s anti-harassment policy or the Student Code of Conduct.