Thursday, May 21, 2009

School District Settles Lesbian Harassment Case

The Vallejo City Unified School District in California will pay a former student, Rochelle Hamilton, $25,000 in a settlement to keep her from filing a lawsuit over anti-gay harassment she alleges to have experienced at the hands of faculty and staff during her sophomore year at Jesse Bethel High School. Hamilton says that teachers forced her to attend a counseling session for gay students where the counselor pressured her to disavow her lesbian sexual orientation. She also says that teachers verbally harassed her, calling her "ungodly" and telling her that she is "going to hell" and that she "can get HIV/AIDS from being gay and messing with female." She was also barred from the girls' locker room because she was not wearing stereotypically feminine attire.

The school district engaged an external investigation into Hamilton's claims; and while the investigation report is confidential, it reportedly concluded that some of the claims had merit and some did not. Apparently, however, the findings were sufficiently negative to motivate the school district to preempt the lawsuit with a settlement. In addition to the $25,000 it will pay Hamilton, the district has also agreed to revamp its harassment policies.