September 10, 2009

>ACLU Settles with California School over Issues of Anti-LGBT Harassment

>The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reached a settlement with Corona del Mar High School in Southern California, for failing to ensure the safety and well-being of its LGBT students. As the ACLU noted,

"Students are routinely referred to … with words such as 'dyke,' 'butch,' 'fairy,' 'gay,' 'homo' and 'queer' by other students at school in hallways and classrooms within earshot of teachers, but without repercussion."

It continued that school administrators were "permitting and sanctioning an atmosphere that is hostile to female, lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender students in general, and has led to despicable threats of violence against one student in particular."

The student in question is 17-year-old Hail Ketchum, who received threats of rape and murder from three students on the football team--and these athletes also harassed another student with homophobic slurs. The incidents occurred after Ketchum performed in the starring role as the HIV-positive lead in a school production of the musical Rent. In addition, the school temporarily shut down production of the show--allegedly due to its inclusion of LGBT and HIV-positive characters--and Ketchum relocated to another school.
Fortunately, the settlement between the ACLU and the school is not merely punitive, but rather seeks to ensure that faculty members will be equipped to address homophobic and sexist remarks and actions in the future. The school will formally apologize to Ketchum, and the Newport-Mesa Unified School District will hold "mandatory training sessions for administrators, teachers and students that will focus on the harmful impacts of sexual discrimination and harassment."

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