The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, together with the National Center for Lesbian Rights today filed suit against the Los Angeles Unified School District, Washington Preparatory High School administrators, teachers, and security guards for harassing gay and lesbian students on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation.
The legal complaint, filed in federal district court, charges LAUSD and Washington Preparatory High School staff with operating "a climate rife with hostility towards and discrimination against students and staff based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation."
Conditions at the school, and the district's failure to address those conditions, were first brought to the ACLU's attention in August. Despite repeated demands by ACLU attorneys and students at the school, officials at the Los Angeles Unified School District have not brought the school into compliance with state law.
"No student should go to school feeling unsafe from harassment of any sort," said Catherine Lhamon, staff attorney with the ACLU of Southern California. "But what makes this case particularly troubling is that the harassment came from school administrators, teachers, and security guards among others. Students have no recourse when the school bully wears a security guard's uniform or happens to be the home room teacher."
The following are a few of the numerous individual incidents of harassment listed in the legal complaint:
  • Administrators, teachers, and staff themselves call students names such as "faggot" and "sinner" and tell the students they are "wrong," "unholy," "hate[d]," and "not supposed to be like this" because the students are, or are perceived to be, lesbian, gay, or bisexual
  • Teachers threaten to, and do, "out" students to their families as punishment for students' sexual orientation
  • A student physically assaulted another student during class based on the student's sexual orientation but the teacher stood idly by because the teacher thought the assaulted student "needed to toughen up"
  • Security guards verbally harangue same-sex couples but ignore public displays of affection from heterosexual student couples on campus
  • Administrators and deans suspend and otherwise discipline students for complaining about harassment and for choosing same-sex partners
  • An assistant principal refuses to speak the word "gay"over the school public address system to announce a meeting of the Gay-Straight Alliance club
"As I see it, people harass me and other students for being gay because they don't really know us," said David Ramirez [not his real name]. "If these people could sit down with me, they would find out that I'm just a regular high school student. I'm close with my family, and I spend a lot of time hanging out with them, barbecuing, and just having a good time. And, just like any other high school student I deserve respect too. I hope that by joining this lawsuit, I can educate people and make a difference for other gay and lesbian students."
The lawsuit calls for an injunction ordering the defendants to put an end to the unconstitutional and illegal harassment and also asks that the school and the district reevaluate and institute proper training procedures for all staff to put an end to the hostile and intolerant school envirornment.
"The Gay-Straight Alliance Network (GSA Network) is also a plaintiff in this case on behalf of young people at Washington Preparatory who were too scared to come forward or felt too unsafe to speak up about the harassment they are enduring," said Carolyn Laub, executive director of the Gay-Straight Alliance Network. "We are deeply concerned about the fact that many youth may not feel safe enough at Washington Prep to join the GSA club. GSA clubs provide a safe place for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and straight ally students to meet at school and get support, which is especially important in the face of a hostile school climate."