Trial set in lawsuit accusing Merced school officials of mishandling sexual harassment

A trial date has been set for Golden Valley High teacher Annie Delgado’s sexual harassment lawsuit against the Merced Union High School District.

California Visiting Judge Josh M. Fredricks on Monday set a jury trial for Sept. 8, 2020, with court proceedings expected to last several days.

An independent investigation requested by the school district found that celebrated Golden Valley High boys varsity basketball coach Keith Hunter slapped Delgado’s buttocks and remarked to her about her breasts and legs during a Merced High School Boosters’ Hall of Fame event on March 25, 2017, according to a letter of reprimand by the school district.

Hunter previously told the Sun-Star he apologized and regretted his conduct that day. But Delgado said the school district also was responsible for the sexual harassment because it failed to prevent discrimination, harassment and retaliation after Delgado filed complaints.

Delgado, during a May 9, 2018, school board meeting, detailed how she reported the sexual harassment to district administrators months after the fundraiser dinner.

AK Keith Hunter Ceremony 3
Golden Valley boys head basketball coach Keith Hunter speaks during a ceremony to honor him for his 400 career wins at Golden Valley High School in Merced, Calif., on Friday, Feb. 2, 2018. Andrew Kuhn akuhn@mercedsun-star.com

School district officials declined to comment on pending litigation. But in a formal response to the lawsuit, district officials denied wrongdoing or mismanagement. The district also demanded a jury trial, according to a notice filed on Oct. 7.

The next pre-trial hearing in the case was scheduled for Aug. 10, 2020.

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Vikaas Shanker is an award-winning reporter covering education, crime and courts for the Merced Sun-Star and Los Banos Enterprise. After growing up in Naperville, Illinois and graduating from the University of Kansas, he reported in several Chicago suburbs before moving to Merced County in 2016.