US: Human rights group alleges Californian school district harbours anti-gay discrimination
The American Clivil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California wrote to a school district demanding that it end discrimination against gay students by administrators and teachers in its high schools.
On Monday, the ACLU wrote an 11-page letter to Hesperia Unified School District Interim Superintendent David McLaughlin, alleging that administrators at Sultana High School harboured discrimination and a hostile environment for gay students.
Law firm Nixon Peabody also weighed in on the letter, which accused teachers of making discriminatory comments about gay people to students, and had been reluctant to stop anti-gay bullying.
In one of the incidents detailed by the letter, one teacher told a student who said he did not receive any valentines day cards, that it is “because you’re gay and nobody wants to be with you”.
Another alleged incident involved an administrator who referred to a gay student’s campaign to become homecoming queen as a “joke”.
The letter went on to say that a teacher also told a student to “take the gay headband off”.
As well as the specific incidents outlined in the letter, it also stated that girls were instructed to wear dresses to their prom, and that boys were told to wear tuxedos.
For their yearbook photos, students were told to wear gender-specific attire, the letter said, which is in violation of state and federal laws.
It went on to say that administrators had censored gay straight alliance club’s public announcements, flyers and activities, such as film screenings.
An openly gay teacher was also told she was “a bad fit”, after she assisted a student in filing a complaint about another teacher. Her contract at the school was not renewed.
Kyle Bodda, the president of the Sultana High School’s gay straight alliance commented, saying the atmosphere was proving to be distracting to learn in.
“All students should feel safe and free to be themselves at school,” he said. “I’m hopeful the administration does the right thing and creates a safe environment where we can be ourselves without fear of being harassed.”
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The School District did not immediately respond to the letter, or address the allegations, but the letter requested written assurances from the district by 25 March that the discrimination would end.
Meanwhile the Lake County School Board narrowly voted on Monday to allow extracurricular clubs, including a gay-straight alliance, after the ACLU put pressure on it to either allow the GSA or ban all clubs.