March 18, 2019

Gay Father Settles Suit Against Pressman Academy

A gay Israeli father has settled an ongoing lawsuit against Temple Beth Am’s Pressman Academy.

The man filed the suit against the school on Sept. 20, 2017, on behalf of his two daughters, alleging they were discriminated against because he is gay and single. However, on Feb 15, the plaintiff’s attorney, Robert Starr, filed a settlement notice with the Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Dennis Landin. 

Pressman Head of School Erica Rothblum sent the following statement to the Journal: 

“Pressman Academy of Temple Beth Am has resolved a recent lawsuit filed against it by the parent of a former student, by agreeing to allow its insurance company to pay a nominal sum in exchange for a dismissal and release of all claims.  

“The parent, identified in the complaint only as ‘John Doe,’ alleged that his child was discriminated against on the basis that the father is single and gay.  In October 2018, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Dennis Landin dismissed all of the plaintiff’s allegations of discrimination, together with other allegations in the lawsuit.  The parent has now agreed to dismiss what remains of his lawsuit (two claims of negligence) for a payment of just $4,500, which Pressman Academy characterizes as ‘nuisance value.’ ”

The Journal first reported on this story shortly after the filing, when Doe’s daughters, listed as “Jane Doe 1” and “Jane Doe 2,” were students at Pressman. Their father subsequently removed them from the school at the end of the 2016-17 year.

According to the 47-page lawsuit, students teased Jane Doe 1 by calling her an orphan, pushing a chair into her, circulating rumors about her and, at one point, putting thorns on her pillow.

“Pressman Academy of Temple Beth Am has resolved a recent lawsuit filed against it by the parent of a former student, by agreeing to allow its insurance company to pay a nominal sum in exchange for a dismissal and release of all claims.”

 — Erica Rothblum 

Among the myriad complaints alleging discrimination and bullying in the suit, were claims that teachers continually asked the sisters to bring a “woman figure” to the school’s Mother’s Day celebration. 

In 2016, Jane Doe 1 allegedly told a tutor she was suicidal and that teachers had told John Doe that it would be better if Jane Doe 1 went to another school.  

In filing the suit, John Doe said even though Jane Doe 1 was now at another school, she still “continues to suffer from the discrimination and bullying she experienced at Pressman Academy.”

However, Pressman’s attorneys stated in their court papers that the language
in the complaint was “conclusory” and that the claims were “vague,
ambiguous and uncertain.”

Rothblum added in her statement following the ruling, “Pressman Academy is, and has always been, a school committed to the physical and emotional safety of our students. As a school whose core values include community and kindness, we teach students that we are a ‘telling school’ when it comes to bullying, which means that everyone should feel comfortable to tell a teacher, counselor or administrator if they see or experience something, and those adults will then take prompt and effective action. In addition, our commitment to our values includes a life skills class in our middle school that explicitly teaches about sexuality and identity, as well as an active partnership with Keshet, a national organization that works for full LGBTQ equality and inclusion in Jewish life. We welcome and celebrate an incredibly diverse parent and student population.”

As of press time, attorneys for the plaintiff had not responded to the Journal’s request for comment.