Saturday, January 15, 2011

OCR Investigates Anti-Gay Abuse that Lead to Suicide

The Office for Civil Rights will reportedly investigate claims that the Tehachapi Unified School District in California failed to protect a student from anti-gay bullying and harassment that resulted in the student's suicide in September. This appears to be the first investigation of its kind, coming on the heels of OCR's guidance letter to schools that delineates schools' responsibilities under Title IX to address sexual orientation discrimination that overlaps with sex discrimination, like where the student is targeted for failing to conform with stereotypes about sex and gender. The student whose suicide has prompted this investigation was thirteen-year-old Seth Walsh, who hanged himself from a tree in his backyard after fellow students at Jacobsen Middle School harassed him because he was openly gay, and because if his mannerisms and appearance. The investigation will determine whether school officials responded appropriately to bullying that they knew or should have known was going on.