HCISD faces lawsuit: Claims of sexual harassment, abuse by teacher, coach

HARLINGEN – Claims of sexual harassment, romantic pursuit and the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District failing to notify the proper authorities of the situation to protect its students, have resulted in a lawsuit being filed.

A father of a local high school student is bringing a monetary action in federal court against HCISD on behalf of his daughter, who is said to have been repeatedly sexually assaulted on school grounds by one of the district’s teachers.

The suit, which was filed earlier this week, states the abuse occurred during a period of months in the 2014-15 school year when the girl was 15 and a student in the teacher’s class.

The claim names that teacher as Robert Amitrani, also an assistant coach for the girls volleyball and softball teams. He died on July 31, 2015.

Attorney Ricardo Garcia is representing the father in this matter and is suing on the basis the school district violated federal Title IX laws that protect students against sex discrimination.

The lawsuit states that pursuit of the girl, and repeated sexual assaults constitutes discrimination on the basis of her sex within the meaning of Title IX.

The district provided a statement on the matter.

“Because of privacy and FERPA laws, we cannot discuss the specifics of the situation on Mr. Amitrani’s employment with the district. We can verify that in July of 2015, the district first learned of allegations against Mr. Amitrani. Mr. Amitrani was immediately put on leave even though it was summer. He was restricted from accessing district property and interacting with district students and employees. He was subsequently found deceased shortly thereafter.”

However, Garcia and the claim state that’s not the whole situation.

“Upon information and belief, during the preceding school year or the year before that, district personnel, including the principal of Harlingen South High School were made aware of an outcry by another female student at the school that Amitrani was sexually harassing her,” the claim states.

The claim continues, “the district conducted its own investigation which was inadequate” and then “allowed Amitrani to continue teaching at the school and have access to female students …”

We’ll have more on the lawsuit in Friday’s Valley Morning Star