Thursday, February 22, 2007

NJ Supreme Court Holds State Law Protects Gay Students from Bullying

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the state's Law Against Discrimination protects students from anti-gay harassment by peers. In so doing, the court rejected the "deliberate indifference" standard that applies to Title IX, and instead relied on state precedent for workplace discrimination.

New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination ("LAD") prohibits places of public accommodation from discriminating against citizens on the basis of several enumerated categories including "affectional or sexual orientation." NJ courts have held that, under LAD, employers are liable if they have "actual or constructive knowledge of the harassment and fails to take effective measures to end the discrimination." The court explained that the liability standard for employment discrimination, which is essentially a negligence standard, would offer more protection to students than the Title IX standard that only imposes liability for peer harassment when school officials deliberately fail to protect students.

A lower court will now determine whether the Toms River public schools used reasonable measures to protect the plaintiff, a former student, from years of verbal and physical anti-gay harassment at the hands of his peers.

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