CRC student files lawsuit against Los Rios District

Cosumnes River College student Iris Perez filed a lawsuit against the Los Rios Community College District, the Los Rios Federation of Teachers Union and former Los Rios employee Hoyt Fong.

The lawsuit alleges that Perez suffered emotional distress, negligence, gender violence and assault after being sexually harassed by Fong, a former crisis counselor at CRC. Perez’s complaint was investigated and confirmed by Los Rios officials.

“It’s not just about this single incident,” Perez’s Attorney Kresta Daley said. “It’s really more about what seems to be the culture at the university that the district and the union have a history of tolerating and covering up sexual misconduct on behalf of both professors, counselors and other employees.”

Perez’s case was not the only claim of misconduct involving Los Rios employees, according to district data of complaints obtained by The Connection.

From 2013-2017, there were 17 cases of sexual harassment involving Los Rios employees filed with the district. All of them were investigated. Three of those resulted in undisclosed disciplinary actions and, in one case, the complaint was dropped. The rest were determined to be unfounded, according to the data.

Perez has said she was particularly upset with being asked if she wanted to drop her case after Fong resigned and left the district. Perez declined to drop her case and the investigation found her complaint to be credible, but, with Fong gone, there was no further disciplinary action taken.

After Perez publicly addressed the Board of Trustees at a March board meeting, the district proposed new policy changes involving sexual harassment cases and relationships between staff and students.

“We are always looking to pursue changes based on single incidents or the Me Too movement or anything else,” said Associate Vice Chancellor of Human Resources Ryan Cox.

Cox said the new policies are currently in effect although some are interim policies until the district makes them permanent.

Cox said these changes include: barring an employee from working in the district if they resign during an investigation, forbidding any personal relationship between a teacher and student, using hired firms to investigate sexual harassment cases instead of the campus Title IX officer on each campus and hiring an outside firm to look at the district’s discrimination policies and recommend changes.   

Although many changes have been made, Cox said the district has never taken these issues lightly.

“The district has always been cognizant and proactive on issues of sexual harassment,” Cox said.

Changes are not only being made districtwide but also at the CRC campus level.   

“The college is committed to making sure that all of our students have the safest environment to pursue their education and the college needs to work as hard as we can, diligently as possible to make sure that that happens,” CRC College President Edward Bush said.

“We’re committed to raising awareness, providing additional services and most importantly holding people accountable when these situations occur,” Bush said.

Bush has taken an initiative by starting a presidential advisory task force focusing on sexual assault and sexual harassment on campus.

Faculty members, staff and administrators on the task force will discuss how to be proactive and ensure that all students are safe.

Perez is seeking unspecified damages and said she hopes to spread awareness through this lawsuit. Perez said she is suing due to the lack of repercussions against Fong.

“The university is now having all complaints investigated by an outside third party, which is definitely an improvement,” said Daley, Perez’s attorney. “My hope is that it’ll [the lawsuit] eventually cause some significant and lasting change at the university.”

Cox said he hopes that complaints no longer being handled by the campus equity officer will allow the equity officers up “to do more proactive training” with these issues.

Perez said she’s looking forward to the possibility of becoming a student representative for Women Escaping A Violent Environment as well as having a WEAVE Confidential Advocate that can provide confidential support for students and faculty.

“I’m looking forward to that so that there’s more awareness so people know that they do have resources on campus,” Perez said.

The WEAVE advocate provides emotional support, information and referrals to on and off campus resources.

To schedule an appointment, call 916-568-3011 or email at [email protected]. The Advocate is on campus on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. inside the Health Center in OPS-126.