New Jersey Sexual Orientation Harassment Attorneys
Sexual orientation harassment in schools is a specific part of sexual harassment in schools. For more information generally about the responsibilities of school officials and about the features of sexual harassment, visit our sexual harassment in schools page.
Gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual students are the most vulnerable of all students who are perceived to be “different” in the school environment. The word “gay” has readily become more widespread and common than it ever has before. It’s now used in its bigoted, negative connotation to describe anything bad or negative. This use has spread to the point where the word is actually used to describe inanimate and non-living objects in a negative way.
Moreover, elements of our conservative social culture and religious culture continually and comfortably castigate gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual people in the media and in writing as having some sort of “secret agenda” to undermine the culture of the United States. Gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual people are constantly denied equal access and equal protection under the laws as adults, and it is therefore no surprise that they suffer uniquely and specifically when they are under the age of 18 in the school environment.
As devastating and as damaging as sexual harassment can be to those students who are vulnerable to it (either because they lack sexual sophistication or for other reasons), (put button for sexual harassment here), gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual harassment is particularly vile.
Worse, if not limited to students who are actually gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual, it is used in addition to castigate students who are only perceived to be so. Sometimes, the harassers are well aware of the fact that the student they are targeting for homophobic harassment is not actually a member of the sexual minority. Sometimes, the harassers are not sure, and sometimes, perhaps, not even the victim is sure, especially if the victim is exceptionally young, perhaps at the start of their middle school education.
This harassment can have devastating consequences, producing social isolation, feelings of despair, mental illness, self-destructive behavior and suicide.
Often, students who are being harassed for gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual issues are not only as uncomfortable as any student might be to complain about sexual harassment, but even might be uncomfortable coming to their own family for help, for fear that the family might have some negative reaction to the fact that the child perceives himself or herself to be a member of a sexual minority or that others might see him or her so. Feeling as if literally no one is on your side, can be the most devastating thing for a child to experience.
School district, school board and school officials all have an affirmative duty under New Jersey law to identify, prevent, deter and punish sexual orientation harassment in schools. They must develop education programs, assembly programs, classroom curriculum, harassment incident reporting mechanisms and disciplinary approaches on a team basis (which involves all school officials from counselors to teachers to administrators) to deter the conduct. If the conduct cannot be deterred, there must be a welcoming, confidential and safe environment for students and their families to complain. When conduct is identified, it must immediately be deterred and/or punished so that students are not exposed to this life-changing and devastating humiliation and abuse.
If school officials fail to deter, and if they fail to respond, then they may be liable for compensatory and punitive damages, as well as attorneys’ fees for the victorious student and their families.
Costello & Mains is at the forefront of the effort to protect all students, regardless of their actual sexual orientation or membership in the sexual minority group, from homophobic gender based and sexual orientation based harassment. If you feel that your child has experienced such harassment or abuse, contact us at 856-727-9700 to discuss your case. We are the leading firm in New Jersey doing this work and have been repeatedly recognized by gay, lesbian, transgendered and bisexual advocacy groups for this work.