†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† THE COUNSELORíS CORNER

Can students in northern California who were both taunted and beaten because of their sexual orientation sue school administrators for failing to protect them?The answer is yes, according to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal.This case was brought by high school and middle school students in a town called Morgan Hill, which is near San Jose.The students claimed that the school district failed to protect them from harassment based on their sexual orientation.The court ruled that the students provided enough evidence to show that the powers that be in the school district knew about the harassment yet failed to adequately deal with it.The court wants the school district to train teachers, students and campus monitors about this issue so that the students will have had a better chance of being protected.

One student named Alono Flores found pornography along with derogatory notes inside her locker.When she asked her assistant principal for a new locker she was told that would happen later.It never did happen.Ms. Flores was also told by Delia Schizzano, the assistant principal, "don't bring me that trash anymore.This is disgusting."At the risk of stating the obvious, Ms. Flores found it disgusting and offensive and was trying to get Ms. Schizzano to do something about it.Ms. Flores continued to receive threatening and insulting notes, yet Ms. Schizzano would not move her locker.

A more severe example of the mistreatment of a student took place at a middle school where a student was beaten by six other students yelling anti-gay comments at him as they beat him.The principal at that school punished only one of the six assaulters and transferred the victim to another school.


Yet another student was subjected to relentless name calling and having food thrown at her.She complained to a campus monitor, who did absolutely nothing even at the times when he saw this behavior taking place.I shouldn't say he did nothing, he actually fanned the flames by starting a rumor among the students that this female and another female student were having oral sex in the bathroom from time to time.

In the Morgan Hill case, the school administrators attempted to claim what is called qualified immunity, however the court rejected this claim indicating that qualified immunity would only apply if the law was not clearly established at the time of the violation.The court held that the law in this area has been well established since 1990.This decision is good news.If you want to dislike someone, dislike them on the merits of their personality, not because they are gay, straight, African American, Asian American,Christian, Jewish, etc.††† Judge people on their own merits.The behavior of the administrators in this case, not taking efficient and appropriate action is inexcusable and it is my hope that this decision and decisions like it will protect those who need the protection of our laws.

 

Dr. Charles J. Unger is a criminal defense attorney in the Glendale law firm of Flanagan, Unger & Grover, and a therapist at the Foothill Centre for Personal and Family Growth.Mr. Unger writes a bimonthly column on legal and psychological issues.He can be reached at charlieunger @hotmail.com