A federal judge in Los Angeles ruled Thursday that a high school does not have the right to “out” a student without his or her permission.

The American Civil Liberties Union brought the lawsuit on behalf of Charlene Nguon, a senior in Orange County’s Garden Grove Unified School District, who claimed the principal violated her right to privacy by telling her parents she was a lesbian after he disciplined her for being affectionate with her girlfriend.

The school sought to have the lawsuit dismissed, but Judge James Selna of the U.S. District Court in the Central District of California allowed the suit to move forward.

“We are pleased that the court recognized that the school does not have the automatic right to disclose a student’s sexual orientation just because that student is out of the closet to his or her friends at school,” said Christine P. Sun, a staff attorney for the ACLU. “Coming out is a very serious decision that should not be taken away from anyone, especially from students who may be put in peril if they live in an unsupportive home.”

Nguon said she was repeatedly disciplined during the 2004-05 school year by Santiago High School Principal Ben Wolf for displaying affection for her girlfriend.

The straight-A student was even suspended for a week and eventually asked to leave the school, which she did halfway through the spring semester of her junior year.

Last summer, she was allowed to return to Santiago, but her disciplinary record has not yet been cleared.

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