A fourteen year old boy was assaulted, harassed, and humiliated for two years while school faculty looked on and did little to nothing to protect him. This is not a particularly original set of circumstances. However this is adds a new twist to this situation:
For the first time since President Bill Clinton was in office, the Justice Department is arguing that the protections against sex discrimination laid out in the Title IX amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 apply to gender identity as well.
Title IX declares that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
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.
The school district in question in upstate New York is now preparing for a public vetting of their practices on homophobic bullying and harassment. And the local news is just catching up with the national news media on this story.