Schools Must Protect Gay Kids, Court Rules
[SAN FRANCISCO] - The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday that schools failing to protect gay students from harassment could be in violation of federal law.
In addition, the court went so far as to warn school administrators that they could be held personally responsible if they ignored pleas of help from students regarding sexual orientation harassment.
The unanimous ruling by the 9th Circuit Court in San Francisco is in response to a suit filed five years ago by six former students against the Morgan Hill Unified School District in California. The five girls and one boy sued after incidents at Morgan Hill's Live Oak High School and Murphy Middle School, which took place from 1991 to 1998.
The students argued that the district and school administrators violated state and federal laws by not responding to their complaints.
Defense attorneys argued that since the schools had anti-discrimination policies in place, they couldn't be sued, and since the laws at the time were not clear when it came to protecting students based on sexual orientation, they were not liable.
The court apparently disagreed, writing in its opinion the schools "failed to adequately train teachers, students and campus monitors about the district's policies prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation."
One student claimed when she approached an assistant principal about pornography and slurs written on her locker by other students, she was told to go back to class and not bring complaints to the school administration any more. The male student in the case said that despite being beaten so badly by six other students that he was hospitalized, only one of his attackers was reprimanded.
"Every school district in America knows it has a problem with anti-gay harassment," Matthew Coles, national director of the American Civil Liberties Union's lesbian and gay rights project, told the San Francisco Chronicle in response to the ruling. "This says you can't wait for something bad to happen. You have to deal with it. ... Just going through the motions isn't enough."