Fwd.: Title IX victory for gay students

John Lindner (johng@garlic.com)
Tue, 23 Jun 1998 19:40:57 -0700

Forwarded by johng@garlic.com
Tue, 23 Jun 1998 15:29:38 EDT
Title IX victory for gay students

Complaint by Gay Student Triggers Historic Civil Rights Agreement;
Fayetteville, Arkansas schools must comply with Title IX

NEW YORK, June 23, 1998 - In an important step in combating harassment of
lesbian and gay students nationwide, the federal government reached agreement
with the Fayetteville Public Schools in Arkansas on broad civil rights
protections in the schools, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund said
The "Commitment to Resolve," entered into by the federal government and the
school system, remedies an administrative complaint brought by a Fayetteville
student, William Wagner.

Lambda represented Wagner, now 17, and his parents, in a sex discrimination
complaint to the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the United States Department
of Education. The complaint is the first filed under Title IX on behalf of a
harassed gay student.

In a letter dated June 17, 1998, Lambda learned that OCR had reached agreement
with the Fayetteville Public Schools, calling for the district to "recognize
the various forms of sexual harassment," including "sexual harassment directed
at gay or lesbian students..." Under the agreement, the school district must
overhaul its policies and procedures and train faculty, staff, and students
with written reports of progress to the OCR until June 1999.

Throughout 1995 and 1996, several students harassed Wagner in grades eight to
10 at his Fayetteville, Arkansas, school; the harassment escalated to a gay
bashing by a gang that broke Wagner's nose and bruised a kidney. Criminal
charges resulted in probation for those students, but others at the school
continued to sexually harass Wagner. After the school failed to address the
on-going harassment, Wagner and his parents filed their OCR complaint in
January 1997. The Wagners subsequently pulled William out of school in fear
for his life.

Wagner's mother Carolyn welcomed the agreement. "My heart broke when my son
was so terribly abused, just for being himself. A mother's dream for her
children is that they be happy and healthy, and this includes being safe at
school," she said, adding, "This agreement with Fayetteville Schools,
hopefully, will safeguard many parents' dreams and protect their kids."

OCR enforces compliance with Title IX, a federal statute that prohibits sex
discrimination, including sexual harassment. In March of 1997, OCR released
new Title IX guidelines for schools which, for the first time, made explicit
reference to "gay or lesbian students" as also being covered by federal
prohibitions against sexual harassment.

"This is the first case in the nation under the new Title IX guidelines'
explicit coverage of sexual harassment directed at gay students," said Lambda
Staff Attorney David S. Buckel. "School principals who question whether
sexual harassment of gay students is illegal will learn a big lesson from this
breakthrough. And now, more lesbian and gay students may be able to finish
high school," he said.


Jean Richter -- richter@eecs.berkeley.edu
The P.E.R.S.O.N. Project (Public Education Regarding Sexual Orientation

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