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Ruling Protects Students’ Privacy

Times Staff Writer

School districts cannot “out” gay students to their parents even if their sexual orientation is known on campus, a federal judge ruled this week in allowing a discrimination lawsuit against an Orange County school district to go forward.

The lawsuit alleges that Garden Grove Unified School District officials unfairly disciplined a 17-year-old student this year for hugging and kissing her girlfriend on campus; revealed her sexual orientation to her mother; and forced the teen to temporarily change schools.

The district had sought to have senior Charlene Nguon’s lawsuit dismissed, arguing in part that Nguon had no expectation of privacy regarding her sexual orientation, because she was openly gay at school.

While not ruling on the facts of the case, U.S. District Judge James V. Selna rejected the district’s argument by allowing a claim that the district violated Nguon’s privacy rights to go forward.

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Christine Sun, the American Civil Liberties Union attorney who is representing Nguon, applauded the judge’s ruling.

“Even though the information might have been known to some people, it wasn’t known to the family,” she said of Nguon’s sexual orientation. “She had a right to tell her family on her own terms, especially when it’s such a sensitive matter in a lot of families.”

A school district spokesman declined to comment.

Nguon’s lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and the district to establish, among other measures, a policy that would prohibit administrators from revealing a student’s sexual orientation.

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“It’s a really good thing for the case and for other students,” said Nguon, who in September filed the suit along with the Gay-Straight Alliance Network. “I hope it would, like, tell [school officials] that they can’t ... go around invading people’s privacy rights.”


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