A state Supreme Court in the United States has ruled that laws protecting LGB adults from discrimination at work can be applied to schoolchildren.
The New Jersey court was ruling on a case brought in 1999 by a gay teenager who suffered persistent abuse and harassment at school because of his sexual orientation.
They ruled that the school must take reasonable steps to stop harassment under the terms of the state’s anti-discrimination law.
“Our conclusion furthers the legislative intent of eradicating the scourge of discrimination not only from society, but also from our schools,” Chief Justice James R. Zazzali wrote in the unanimous decision, according to northjersey.com.
The Toms River school board are now waiting to see if they will be held liable for the abuse suffered by Louis White, who is now 21.
The court did make a distinction between schools and other places of employment, in the sense that pupils are not employees.
“You can fire adults, but you can’t fire students,” a lawyer for the school board told northjersey.com.
White suffered years of verbal and physical abuse throughout his school career, and was eventually transferred to another high school.
The schools did try to stop the homophobic bullying on many occasions.
The court’s decision was welcomed by the American Civil Liberties Union, who had supported Mr White’s case.
“It makes clear that schools must address the entire school environment instead of merely viewing specific incidents of bullying as isolated events,” Deborah Jacobs, executive director of the ACLU in New Jersey, told northjersey.com.