Schools should be safe places to learn for all students, and all students and parents have the right to expect that schools are places that clearly and unequivocally prohibit harassment and discrimination of all kinds.

This is a principle so simple and so obvious that stating it hardly seems necessary, but in this case it is. The position of Westminster school board is, simply put, that it wants carte blanche to discriminate against students who don't conform to gender norms. Even worse, it is willing to sacrifice the good of all students in order to pursue this discriminatory course.

The California Student Safety and Violence Prevention Act of 2000, which was passed and signed into law in late 1999, addressed a serious problem: legislators passed it after hearing the disturbing stories of over 700 students from around the state, who related experiences of harassment and discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender.

These experiences included sexual harassment, violent assault, sexual assault, threats of assault, verbal harassment, and, perhaps most saddening, responses from school administrators that ranged from indifference to ignorance. Today, the problem continues. For instance, our research shows that 53% of students do not believe that their school is safe for boys who aren't as masculine as other boys. And the California Healthy Kids Survey, which surveys 7th, 9th, and 11th graders, showed that the problem of discriminatory harassment is most common among 7th graders.

This school board's commitment to preserving the right to discriminate illustrates precisely why the law was necessary. Every student deserves a safe place to learn, regardless of the biases of school board members. The ACLU strongly urges the Westminster school board to reconsider its position.