Stop Anti-Gay Bullying: Seth's Story

July 1, 2011

At only 13, Seth Walsh had already endured years of anti-gay harassment at school when he hanged himself from a plum tree in his family's backyard. Seth's mother Wendy had tried in vain for years to get school district officials in Tehachapi, California to do something about the abuse her son was experiencing at school.

When Seth was in the fifth grade, other students started calling him "gay." As he got older, the harassment became more frequent and severe. By seventh grade, taunts and verbal abuse were a constant occurrence. Students regularly called him "fag" and "queer." He was afraid to use the restroom or be in the boy's locker room before gym class. Seth's mother and close friends report that teachers and school administrators were aware that Seth was being harassed and, in some instances, participated in the harassment. One teacher allegedly called Seth "fruity" in front of an entire class.

MORE
> U.S. Department of Education Letter to Schools Outlining Legal Responsibility to Address Bullying and Harassment (off-site)

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Wendy's pleas to the school for help were often brushed aside. Seth had always been a good student, receiving A's and B's, but his grades quickly dropped to failing as the harassment continued. Friends reported that he became depressed and withdrawn. A note Seth left upon his death expresses love for his family and close friends, and anger at the school "for bringing you this sorrow."

Seth died on September 28, 2010, after nine days on life support.

NEW: Watch a video of Seth’s mother Wendy.

STATUS: On July 1, 2011, the U.S. Departments of Justice and of Education announced that an investigation into the school district had concluded and a settlement had been reached. The investigation confirmed that Seth Walsh was targeted for harassment at school for two years and that the school district did not fulfill its responsibilities to protect him from this harassment. As a result of the settlement, the school district will implement a series of specific policies, procedures and training that will better protect students from sexual harassment and harassment based on gender stereotypes. Prior to the investigation, the ACLU had sent a letter to Tehachapi Unified School District officials urging them to take immediate and affirmative steps to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again. The ACLU continues to work to ensure that all students have a safe and discrimination-free school environment by supporting the passage of Seth’s Law in California and the Student Non-Discrimination Act in the U.S. Congress.

> Tell Congress to make schools safe and fair for students like Seth. Take action now and demand passage of the Student Non-Discrimination Act.

To keep up with developments on this case - and all of the ACLU's LGBT work - follow the ACLU LGBT project on Facebook and Twitter!

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