English professor wins $10 million for harassment

By Adonia Burciaga

Sabrena Turner-Odom, professor of English, received a $10 million settlement from a case against Howard Irvin and Los Angeles Southwest College regarding the sexual harassment she endured.

Irvin was LASC’s vice president of student services at the time. Previously, he worked for the Los Angeles Police Department. 

Turner-Odom said she was targeted with inappropriate remarks from Irvin during meetings. She initially felt that she would have been able to brush him off, but he became more aggressive as the inappropriate remarks continued. 

Turner-Odom grew up in Watts, and started her academic career at LASC.

She said she felt unsafe in a community she was raised in after what she encountered at LASC. Irvin was the Title IX representative at that time, and Turner-Odom felt that she was not going to be able to get justice with him at the helm.

Turner-Odom said that the district gets funding for Title IX from the federal government depending on how many individuals are a part of the protected classes.

She said that during the trial against LASC and Irvin, Irvin had denied that he was the Title IX representative for LASC. 

Campus News reached out to Irvin regarding the sexual harassment case, but he refused to comment or be interviewed. 

When Turner-Odom reported her incident to the district’s administration and asked about it, she was brushed off and told that her report was being handled.

“It appears that they don’t take it seriously,” she said about the Los Angeles Community College District’s willingness to uphold Title IX.

She said before the incident was reported, her standing with the district was excellent – she had high success rates in development English, which were presented to the district. 

After she filed the report, she told her brothers. They were absolutely furious and wanted justice.

Turner-Odom shared that she felt so unsafe when she was on campus. She was someone who had actively participated in campus events. She said people realized something was going on when she stopped attending events. 

“I had to stop. I would have to watch him whisper to people and start pointing at me,” she said.

After being made to feel unsafe, she gave up her job at the tutoring center. 

“I don’t want anyone to know where I am, I need my schedule to be different everyday.

“I go to my class, my office and then to my car. I don’t know who to trust. I don’t feel safe there,” Turner-Odom said.

What scared her most is that Irvin could target students, the most vulnerable group, at a college. 

After the case was closed, she never received any remarks acknowledging what had happened from her colleagues or people who worked in the district. She felt invisible and wondered if she would have been taken more seriously if she was white. 

Turner-Odom continued working at LASC after the trial because she felt that it wouldn’t be right to leave her students behind. 

Turner-Odom stated she is always advocating for her students to achieve their best and doing so brings her the most joy. 

She would not allow students to walk to their car alone because she was concerned that something would happen to them. She would walk the students to their car in a group to prevent them being alone. 

She was awarded $8.5 million from the district and $1.5 million from Irvin for mental suffering and emotional distress. Turner-Odom and her attorney Maryann Gallagher, were shocked because they had never worried about money. She had wanted him fired, not to be able to sexually harass faculty or a student. 

Turner-Odom stated that she and her attorney became very close. Her attorney is always checking on her when she can.

Turner-Odom said that LACCD has not reached out to her with any remarks. 

She said that women faculty and students surround themselves with people they can trust. 

“If someone attempts to take advantage of you through manipulation, tell somebody,” she said. 

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