Annual Update 2009 - Schools & Youth Docket

July 20, 2009

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Recognition of Gay Straight Alliances (GSA)

Florida: Successfully represented students seeking to form GSA at Okeechobee High School; ending fiercely-fought litigation, federal district judge disagreed with school’s contention that GSAs interfere with “abstinence-only” policies and, in a legal first, ordered schools to provide for well-being of gay students

Illinois: Persuaded school board to recognize GSA at Hononegah High School in Rockton

Minnesota: Won ruling from federal appeals court ordering Maple Grove High School in Osseo to give its LGBT student club the same access to school facilities and resources as other clubs; used case to persuade Anoka Hennepin School District, the largest in the state, to treat all student clubs equally

Nebraska: Successfully represented students at Bellevue East High School in Bellevue who were denied permission to form GSA

New Mexico: Successfully advocated before Farmington Municipal School Board against ban on all extracurricular school clubs, proposed in order to prevent GSA from forming

North Carolina: Persuaded principal of Southwest Edgecombe High School in Pinetops to allow GSA; also got same principal to remove from lesbian student’s record a disciplinary write-up for kissing another girl at a football game

Oklahoma: Got school board to allow GSA to form over principal’s Objections

Pennsylvania: With youth and LGBT groups, formed Youth Advocacy and Rights Project to empower and support Philadelphia-area GSAs

South Carolina: Persuaded high school in Irmo to recognize GSA West Virginia: Challenged decision of Musselman High School in Inwood not to allow GSA (unsuccessful)

Discrimination/Harassment of LGBT Students

Challenging and preventing discrimination and harassment

Alaska: Helped transgender student get permission to use faculty unisex bathroom on ongoing basis

California: Filed friend-of-the-court brief in opposition to school district’s appeal of $300,000 jury verdict awarded to two LGBT students at Poway High School, near San Diego, for prolonged harassment they suffered from other students (pending)

California: Represented Lake County School District student challenging years of harassment based on his sexual orientation and gender identity; resulted in district-wide policies against discrimination and programs to implement them

Illinois: Negotiated agreement allowing transgender girl to follow girl’s dress code at school; student had previously been forced to remove makeup and banned from wearing “too feminine” clothes

Kentucky: After school officials ignored intimidation of GSA meetings at Ohio County High School in Hartford, demanded and got improved security Measures

Kentucky: In aftermath to successful suit to protect LGBT students at Boyd County High School, participated in federal appellate case balancing school safety concerns with First Amendment rights

Louisiana: Worked with Shreveport mother to persuade high school officials to allow her transgender son to use male faculty restroom

Montana: Did Making Montana Schools Safer trainings for over 200 teachers, parents and community members across the state

New York: Assisted transgender freshman and his parent win permission to use boys’ restroom facilities at school

Pennsylvania: Represented Franklin High School ninth grader harassed by classmates because of his perceived sexual orientation; district agreed to pay monetary damages and conduct anti-harassment training for staff and students

South Dakota: Challenged principal for interrogating student and her parents about her sexual orientation, ostensibly to manage her participation in overnight school activity; school agreed not to so violate student’s privacy in the future

Tennessee: Advocated for Memphis students “outed” to their parents by their principal (ended when students declined to participate in formal litigation)

Working for passage of safe schools legislation and policies

California: Helped enact law requiring Department of Education to monitor school compliance with state laws banning harassment of LGBT students

Florida: Helped pass statewide anti-bullying law

Illinois: With Safe Schools Alliance, produced safe schools forums in Peoria and Bloomington/Normal areas; created brochure explaining laws that protect youth and encouraging students to take action to protect their rights

Massachusetts: Worked on anti-bullying legislation (pending)

Michigan: Worked on anti-bullying legislation (pending)

Missouri: Supported efforts to pass statewide anti-bullying bill

Nebraska: Helped pass law requiring every public school to create antibullying policy

New York: Pushed for passage of statewide Dignity for All Students Act (DASA ) to protect LGBT students from bullying in schools (passed Assembly but stalled in Senate); pressed for full implementation of New York City’s DASA

New York: Worked with Office of Children and Family Services to develop good policies for LGBT youth in juvenile detention programs

Pennsylvania: Lobbied unsuccessfully for bill giving protections to LGBT youth in foster care

Tennessee: Worked with Nashville students to successfully persuade Davidson County school board to adopt anti-harassment policy including protections for LGBT youth

Tennessee: Gave presentation at School Boards Association’s conference to hundreds of school board members on their legal responsibilities to LGBT students

LGBT Pride, Visibility & Expression in Schools

Rainbows and t-shirts

Florida: Won federal lawsuit on First Amendment grounds on behalf of students at Ponce de Leon High School banned from wearing rainbow stickers in support of classmate harassed for being a lesbian; lead plaintiff Heather Gillman subsequently awarded AC LU scholarship and Playboy Foundation award for her advocacy

Illinois: Submitted friend-of-the-court brief in federal appellate case (Nuxoll v. Indian Prairie School District) balancing student speech rights against school’s interest in student safety

New York: Represented sophomore at Spencer-Van Etten High School in Spencer who was sent home for wearing t-shirt that said, “Gay? Fine by me;” school officials relented, assuring all students that they may wear t-shirts with controversial messages

Pennsylvania: Successfully advocated for two students in Oil City School District sent home for refusing to remove t-shirts about Day of Silence

Virginia: Advocated for Norcom High (Portsmouth) senior disciplined for wearing t-shirt with image of two overlapping female gender symbols; school relented and agreed not to censor students

Proms

Alabama: Assisted attorney for two girls to win state court ruling ordering Scottsboro City Board of Education to allow them to attend their prom together

Arkansas: Persuaded Twin Rivers School District to allow students to attend prom with dates of their choice, regardless of gender

California: Assisted gay student couple in successful effort to persuade Simi Valley High School officials to allow them to go to the prom

Illinois: Successfully challenged decision of high school in Spring Valley not to allow student to take a date of the same sex to prom

Oklahoma: Helped students resolve favorably prom dispute at Eisenhower High School in Lawton

Texas: Helped student in Pflugerville persuade principal to change school’s policy of only opposite-sex dates for prom

Wisconsin: Advocated unsuccessfully on behalf of gay male senior at Racine Park High School whom school officials prevented from running for Prom Queen

Classrooms and Curriculum

Idaho: Worked with high school teacher to ensure Day of Silence participation, despite principal’s opposition

Massachusetts: Filed friend-of-the-court brief in Parker v. Hurley to support Lexington School District’s decision to include books in the curriculum depicting diverse families, including families headed by gay couples; 1st Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of school district

New Jersey: Challenged Board of Education of Evesham’s decision to pull the film That’s a Family from elementary school curriculum because it showed families headed by same-sex couples (pending)

Tennessee: Intervened on behalf of Washington County student punished for organizing Day of Silence activities; school apologized and agreed to support student free speech rights

Tennessee: Successfully lobbied against bill to ban discussion about sexual orientation (other than heterosexuality) in public schools

Texas: Prepared and publicized know-your-rights guide on student expression in public schools to support student participation in Day of Silence

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