LOS ANGELES -The ACLU of Southern California and the Gay-Straight Alliance Network entered into an agreement with the Fresno Unified School District to take steps to eliminate anti-gay discrimination from Fresno campuses after receiving multiple complaints from students who were harassed, in some cases by school officials, because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation.
"Our concern is that all students regardless of whether they are gay or straight feel comfortable on campus and that learning is their primary concern while they are at school," said Christine P. Sun, staff attorney for the ACLU of Southern California. "We are pleased that the Fresno Unified School District is finally taking action to incorporate education on all biases into its curriculum."
The agreement was reached after the ACLU and the GSA Network were contacted by a parent who for months had unsuccessfully attempted to work with the District to end the discrimination against her son by school administrators. In an email obtained by the student's parent, the District Parent Ombudsman instructed other school officials to "document if [the student] is possibly confused about his sexual preference and suggest ways to train him in appropriate ways of expressing his preferences." In the email, the District Ombudsman also suggested that the student needed "psychological testing."
The agreement creates a comprehensive training and curricular program for administrators and students over the next two years that directly addresses anti-gay bias. The training will start this fall and requires that all administrators, teachers, and some additional staff attend a training session focused primarily on sexual orientation and gender identity diversity, discrimination and harassment.
"Daily harassment against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students is ubiquitous in our schools," said Carolyn Laub, executive director of GSA Network. "We look forward to working with Fresno Unified to take comprehensive steps to solve the problem. Other school districts should take a page from Fresno Unified's lesson book and commit to safety and respect for all."
The trainings will include a live presentation by students who can talk about personal experiences and the adult response to such behavior. The District also agreed to provide mandatory instruction for all high school students focusing exclusively on the subject of preventing harassment and discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.
Fresno students said the program and training sessions would be a positive step forward.
"I think this kind of training will be great for our district," said Frankie Martinez, a senior at Sunnyside High School. "I know how difficult it may be for gay youth like me and I think this will greatly increase tolerance and I believe that things will finally begin to improve."