Federal Appeals Court Says Schools Must Protect Gay Students from Harassment

April 8, 2003 12:00 am

Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States


SAN FRANCISCO – In a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Federal Court of Appeals for the western states issued a historic decision today which holds school officials liable for failing to protect students from anti-gay harassment.

The court held that a school must take steps to eliminate harassment when it learns that lesbian, gay and bisexual students are abused at school.

“This decision is long overdue. Finally, it’s clear that schools can no longer stand back and turn a blind eye to the kind of debilitating harassment that so many lesbian, gay and bisexual students face every day,” said Kate Kendell, Executive Director of NCLR.

Matt Coles, Director of the ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, added, “The court made it very clear that going through the motions is not enough. Schools have to really deal with the problem of anti-gay harassment.”

The decision comes in a lawsuit brought on behalf of five high school students in Santa Clara’s Morgan Hill Unified School District, who charged that school officials refused to take any action to protect the students from ongoing anti-gay harassment. The students, four girls and one boy, were repeatedly abused both physically and verbally. One student was hospitalized after a group of male students shouted “faggot” and other homophobic slurs while hitting and kicking him at a school bus stop in full view of the bus driver.

A female student, Alana Flores, found a pornographic picture taped to her locker. A handwritten note attached to the photo read, “Die, Die, . . Dyke bitch, Fuck off. We’ll kill you.” When Flores sought help from the school and asked for a new locker, an assistant principal said, “Yes, sure, sure, later. You need to go back to class. Don’t bring me this trash anymore. This is disgusting.”

The case, Flores v. Morgan Hill Unified School District, will now return to the federal district court for trial.

The students are represented by James Emery and Jill K. Ginstling, of Keker & Van Nest, LLP, for the ACLU and the NCLR.

Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.

Learn More About the Issues in This Press Release