Fired California teacher reaches million-dollar settlement

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com August 29 2002 11:00 PM ET

A San Leandro, Calif., teacher who was reprimanded after he discussed minority and gay issues with his San Leandro High School honors English students during the 1997-1998 school year has reached a $1,155,000 settlement with the school district, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The deal Karl Debro reached Tuesday follows a jury's ruling on August 8 that the district's actions violated his right to free speech and association. Debro sued in 1999 after the school board, in response to complaints about his classroom discussions, adopted a "controversial issues" policy that requires campus principals to approve the discussion of controversial topics before they are discussed with students.

Debro, who is married and has two children, said the policy was unconstitutional. An Alameda County superior court judge agreed, and on August 8 Debro was awarded $500,000 in emotional damages. The settlement came as the case was about to enter the punitive damages phase. "I hope people realize that teachers are responsible for discussing, and required to discuss, issues of racism and sexism with their students," said Debro, who remains a teacher at San Leandro High and is adviser to the school's Gay-Straight Alliance.