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Charlene Nguon was an honor-society candidate and straight-A student on track to attend a competitive four-year college after graduating from high school last June. Instead, her academic plans were derailed when she was singled out and unfairly disciplined by school administrators on her Orange County campus.
Last year, she sued the Garden Grove Unified School District in an effort to stop discrimination and harassment of gay and lesbian students on campus.
"Charlene is the type of child every parent should be proud of," said Christine P. Sun, staff attorney for the ACLU of Southern California, who represented Nguon along with two local law firms. "We've tried to work out this situation with the school district so it's very unfortunate that it has come to this point. Instead of derailing Charlene's academic achievements, school administrators should have done their job to ensure every student thrives regardless of their sexual orientation."
Nguon's academic plans were derailed when school officials began targeting and punishing her and her girlfriend for displaying affection on campus and ultimately forced either Charlene or her girlfriend to transfer schools midway through the second semester of their junior year. Such displays by heterosexual students were common and generally went unpunished.
"I just don't understand why my girlfriend and I were not allowed to be affectionate but other couples are," Nguon said at the time the lawsuit was filed. "Most other students at Santiago are very accepting and tolerant of gay students, but the administration is a different story. We were singled out and disciplined just because we are two girls."
U.S. District Judge James V. Selna is expected to issue a decision in the next several weeks. The lawsuit seeks to create a district wide policy and guidelines to ensure that gay and lesbian students are treated equally.
Nguon is represented by Dan Stormer of Hadsell and Stormer, Jordan Kushner and Shawn McDonald of the law firm Latham and Watkins and Sun of the ACLU/SC.