The Boulder Valley School District building in Boulder on Nov. 17, 2021. Credit: Anthony Albidrez

The white family that sued Boulder Valley School District for allegedly violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has officially dismissed its lawsuit, according to court records. 

The dismissal still requires the district to pay the family $32,500, among other terms in a settlement agreement reached last month. But the dismissal means efforts by Latino parents and some school board members to have the agreement renegotiated — or tossed out entirely — will be all but impossible. 

The family filed the lawsuit after a principal at Whittier International Elementary School determined their child made discriminatory comments to two Black students. The family alleged their child was punished, while a Black student and her mother were not, for behavior the family described as bullying. The lawsuit alleged Whittier and district officials “selectively enforced disciplinary processes, and other discrimination on the basis of race.”

Last month, the district and the family reached a settlement agreement that included a payment to the family and the removal of the principal’s investigation report from their child’s disciplinary file, among other provisions. 

But it remained unclear whether the Board of Education would get to vote on whether to approve the agreement. 

Several school board members, including Lisa Sweeney-Miran and Richard Garcia, said they wanted the agreement to come up at a public meeting for a vote. Both opposed the terms of the agreement. 

“It really undermines the work we are doing around equity, diversity and inclusion in our district,” Garcia told Boulder Reporting Lab last month in response to the agreement. “We need to stand up for our principles.” 

On June 26, BVSD’s Consejo Asesor de Padres Latinos (CAPL), a group of Latino parents who advise the district and have long advocated for reforming disciplinary policies that historically have disadvantaged Latino students, sent a letter to district officials and school board members urging them to refrain from making the payment to the family.

“It will set a terrible precedent that will allow any white family of means to use the legal system to undermine the equitable discipline policies and hold BVSD hostage for financial settlements,” the letter states. “An equitable disciplinary system requires that the district investigate and create a restorative justice process for resolving cases of discrimination without families having to sue the school district.”

CAPL also requested that if the payment is issued, then the district should “create a price and a process” to help families “solicit compensation for the unjust consequences and experiences their students have suffered as a result of racism, homophobia and inequity in BVSD.”

In response to a request by Boulder Reporting Lab for comment on the letter, a spokesman for the district shared a letter that Kathy Gebhardt, the president of the school board, wrote to CAPL. Gebhardt indicated the agreement was final and did not require further approval from the school board. 

“The standard for board action and board approval is only required for an expenditure over $100,000,” she wrote. “The Board had an executive session to discuss litigation on June 12. With the benefit of that discussion and the advice of legal counsel, it was appropriate to move forward without a board vote consistent with the policy.” 

Gebhardt declined to discuss the negotiations related to the settlement, citing confidentiality agreements, and did not directly respond to the parents’ other requests.

“While we have made important strides we recognize that inequities still exist, including a persistent achievement gap and exclusionary discipline practices,” she wrote. “We know that it will be through ongoing, intentional work, and collaboration with our community that we will demonstrate our commitment to real and meaningful change.”

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