The ACLU of Southern California, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the law firm Millbank, Tweed, Hadley and McCloy reached a settlement yesterday in their lawsuit filed against the Los Angeles Unified School District on behalf of Washington Preparatory High School students and the Gay-Straight Alliance Network who sued to stop harassment on the basis of sexual orientation.
The settlement includes a comprehensive series of mandatory training sessions for Washington Prep teachers, staff, and students, and for middle school students who will attend the South Los Angeles high school. The settlement aims to prevent harassment and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students through training and other efforts by LAUSD's Education Equity Compliance Office that will focus on ending sexual orientation and gender identity prejudice.
"History has shown that ignoring bias never works and only silences the voices that need most to be heard. Other school districts have tried to hide sexual orientation and gender identity issues as too controversial, so we are pleased that LAUSD has chosen to face these issues head on and is working to create a better environment for students at Washington Prep," said Christine Sun, staff attorney for the ACLU of Southern California. "The training is a model for the rest of the state."
The settlement includes a mandatory day-long faculty training on diversity, discrimination and harassment, focused primarily on issues pertaining to actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. The Anti-Defamation League will conduct the training, which began this year and will be repeated in the next two school years.
Gays and Lesbians Initiating Dialogue for Equality (GLIDE), will hold classroom training sessions and assemblies for Washington Prep students and middle school students slated to attend the high school that encourage diversity and aim to eliminate discrimination and harassment.
"I am so happy all the students at Washington Prep will have this training," said David Ramirez, who will graduate next week. "It was really hard to go to school before because some people here just didn't know how to be tolerant. Things have gotten better since we stood up for gay students and I think they'll improve even more now."
Added Carolyn Laub, executive director of the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, which was also a plaintiff in the lawsuit: "GSA Network is pleased that the settlement agreement includes mandatory staff training and student education on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues because these proven strategies will help create what all students at Washington Prep deserve -- a safe place to learn."
The lawsuit originally charged LAUSD and Washington Preparatory High School administrators, teachers, and security guards for harassing gay and lesbian students on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation and operating "a climate rife with hostility towards and discrimination against students and staff based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation."
Students at the school sued on the grounds that they were subjected to administrators, teachers, and staff calling students names such as "faggot" and "sinner" and telling 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. The suit also charged that teachers threatened to "out" students to their families as punishment for students' sexual orientation, the lawsuit said.
Deanne Neiman from LAUSD's Education Equity Compliance Office said: "It is important to acknowledge that the District has had a long-standing and pro-active commitment to protecting LGBT students from discrimination and harassment. Since 2001 and continuing to date, 216 Anti-Bias LGBT Trainings were conducted for school administrators and staff. At Washington Prep this settlement agreement augments the comprehensive training and activities already underway at the school and in the District as a whole."