Saturday, March 21, 2009

ACLU Sues California HS for Enabling Homophobic Climate

The ACLU has sued the Newport-Mesa Unified School District in California for failing to address bullying and harassment targeting gay students at Corona Del Mar High School. Its primary example (alleged) involves three football players' threats of rape and murder, imbued with gay slurs, which were directed at a female classmate in January. Their actions were recorded and posted on Facebook, yet school officials did little to discipline the boys or protect the girl involved and essentially, according to the ACLU, were dismissive of the matter. Other examples of a homophobic climate at Corona Del Mar, which has worsened in the wake of the Prop 8 campaign, is the school's decision to cancel a student production of gay-themed musical Rent. The principal later reversed the decision, likely due to student outcry and national media attention it received, however, the ACLU's complaint alleges that the students involved were retaliated against for going to the press.

In addition to a Title IX deliberate indifference to harassment claim, the complaint also invokes the federal and state constitution's equal protection clauses and California's education statute, which enumerates sexual orientation as a category protected from discrimination. Plaintiffs are seeking unspecified monetary damages and other remedies including a complaint filing process at school, diversity training for students and staff, designated staff contacts for harassed students, and a survey of attitudes toward sexual orientation.