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US court upholds $1 million for Latino student harassed in high school

A jury awarded $1 million to a Latino man for the years of racial threats and harassment he endured at a rural high school in New York. The appeals court called the amount appropriate.

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A federal appeals court on Monday upheld a $1 million jury award to a Latino man who endured 3 1/2 years of racial threats and harassment at a rural high school in New York.

The three-judge panel of the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City upheld the award against the Pine Plains Central School District after rejecting the district’s appeal.

The judges said the $1 million in compensatory damages to the former student, Anthony Zeno, was an appropriate amount given that school officials were aware of the ongoing harassment but did not take effective action to stop it.

“We conclude there was sufficient evidence in the record to support the jury’s finding that the District’s responses to student harassment of Anthony amounted to deliberate indifference to discrimination,” Judge Denny Chin wrote for the unanimous panel.

In his freshman year of high school, Mr. Zeno transferred from Long Island to Stissing Mountain High School in Pine Plains, New York. The school had minority attendance of less than five percent, and many students used Zeno’s ethnic heritage as a basis to taunt, harass, menace, and physically assault him.

“His peers made frequent pejorative references to his skin tone, calling him a ‘nigger’ nearly every day,” Judge Chin said.

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