ACLU and Los Angeles School District Settle Anti-Gay Harassment Case

June 29, 2005 12:00 am

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High School Will Provide Training Sessions for Staff and Students to End Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Prejudice

LOS ANGELES – The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the law firm Millbank, Tweed, Hadley and McCloy announced today that they have reached a settlement in their lawsuit charging that teachers and staff at Washington Preparatory High School regularly harassed gay and lesbian students.

The settlement aims to prevent harassment and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students through training and other efforts by the Education Equity Compliance Office of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).

“History has shown that ignoring bias never works and only silences the voices that need most to be heard,” said Christine Sun, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Southern California and co-counsel in the case. “Other school districts have tried to ignore sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination completely, so we are pleased that LAUSD has chosen to face these issues head on and is working to create a better environment for students at Washington Prep. We hope the training serves as a model for the rest of the state.”

The settlement includes a mandatory daylong faculty training on diversity, discrimination and harassment, focused primarily on issues pertaining to actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. The Anti-Defamation League will conduct the training, which began this year and will be repeated in the next two school years.

In addition, Gays and Lesbians Initiating Dialogue for Equality will hold classroom training sessions and assemblies for Washington Prep students and middle school students slated to attend the high school. The sessions will encourage diversity and aim to eliminate discrimination and harassment.

“I am so happy all the students at Washington Prep will have this training,” said David Ramirez, a high school senior who was represented in the lawsuit. “It was really hard to go to school before because some people here just didn’t know how to be tolerant. Things have gotten better since we stood up for gay students and I think they’ll improve even more now.”

The Gay-Straight Alliance Network, which was also represented in the lawsuit, applauded the settlement.

“GSA Network is pleased that the settlement agreement includes mandatory staff training and student education on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues because these proven strategies will help create what all students at Washington Prep deserve — a safe place to learn,” said Carolyn Laub, Executive Director of GSA Network.

The lawsuit charged that Washington Prep operated in a “climate rife with hostility towards and discrimination against students and staff based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation.” School administrators, teachers and security guards called students names such as “faggot” and “sinner” and told students perceived to be lesbian or gay that they are “wrong,” “unholy,” “hate[d],” and “not supposed to be like this,” according to the lawsuit. The suit also charged that teachers threatened to “out” students to their families as punishment for students’ sexual orientation.

Deanne Neiman from LAUSD’s Education Equity Compliance Office said: “It is important to acknowledge that the district has had a long-standing and pro-active commitment to protecting LGBT students from discrimination and harassment. Since 2001 and continuing to date, 216 Anti-Bias LGBT Trainings were conducted for school administrators and staff. At Washington Prep this settlement agreement augments the comprehensive training and activities already underway at the school and in the district as a whole.”

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