– Strengthening established judicial precedent, several recent court decisions and settlements last week reaffirm the rights of every student and teacher to feel safe in school, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.
In Georgia, the White County School District has reportedly agreed to pay $168,000 in legal fees to the ACLU and $10,000 to students who filed the lawsuit and to implement anti-bullying programs after White County High School refused to allow a Gay-Straight Alliance to meet on campus in defiance of the Federal Equal Access Act.
An 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s ruling that Maple Grove High School near Minneapolis must allow a Gay-Straight Alliance the same access as other non-curricular clubs based on the Equal Access Act.
In Ohio, a lesbian teacher who came out to her class during a presentation on GLSEN’s Day of Silence in April 2003 won a settlement from London City School District. The school district agreed to add sexual orientation to its equal employment policy and pay the teacher $37,500 in financial compensation.
"We always regret when discrimination makes Americans turn to the courts to force schools to do what is right," said GLSEN Founder and Executive Director Kevin Jennings. "The one thing we’ve learned is that courts have been overwhelming consistent in their support for protecting students and offering equal access to GSAs."
The courts have routinely ruled in favor of GSAs through the Equal Access Act and said schools are responsible for protecting students from bullying and harassment based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. One lawsuit resulted in a $1.1 million settlement.
Details of past judgments and settlements can be found in "Fifteen Expensive Reasons Why Safe Schools Legislation is in Your School’s Best Interest".
GLSEN, or the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established nationally in 1995, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. For more information on GLSEN’s educational resources, public policy agenda, student organizing programs, research, public education or development initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.