Hesperia school accused of discrimination against gay, lesbian students
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A San Bernardino County school district faces legal action for alleged discrimination against gay and lesbian students, including its alleged refusal to allow girls to wear tuxedos to the upcoming prom.
The Hesperia Unified School District was notified of pending litigation in a letter Monday from the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. The ACLU typically warns government agencies of looming legal action to give them time to make changes.
The letter makes specific allegations against the faculty and administration of Sultana High School. It recounts “persistent censorship” of activities and announcements by the Gay-Straight Alliance club.
“Indeed, the club’s very name has typically been truncated from ‘Gay-Straight Alliance’ to ‘GSA’ when morning announcements are read over the intercom, with the words ‘gay,’ ‘lesbian,’ ‘bisexual,’ ‘transgender,’ and ‘queer’ omitted entirely,” the attorneys’ letter reads.
One announcement was submitted as: “Do you identify as straight, lesbian, bisexual, gay, or are you questioning everything? Come join Sultana’s Gay-Straight Alliance on Wednesdays at lunch in room W-11. Join a group of students here on campus that support each other and want to make a difference for others.” The announcement was allegedly broadcast instead as: “GSA meeting in W-11.”
“The club’s recently submitted announcements have, more often than not, simply not been broadcast at all,” according to the letter. The letter also accuses the school of allowing and failing to investigate discriminatory remarks by faculty and administration and pressuring the club’s lesbian faculty advisor to leave, contributing to an atmosphere of hostility and bullying among students.
The school intends to hold its prom at a Los Angeles hotel in April, and students not dressed in traditional gender-defined clothes won’t be allowed on the bus to the event, according to attorneys. A number of young women in the club want to wear tuxedos to the prom. And a male student wants to wear heels with a tuxedo. “They wish to dress in this manner—which some would consider gender non-conforming—both because they are most comfortable expressing themselves by doing so and to make a political statement to the school community about who they are,” and such expressions are legally protected, the letter states.
The district has not yet had time to review the allegations in the letter, which arrived Monday morning.
Joining in the litigation threat were the California offices of the firm Nixon Peabody.
-- Howard Blume