Sexual Orientation Harassment In Schools
“Coming out” is difficult for anyone at any age. It’s especially difficult for young people, despite the fact that the culture is becoming more comfortable with alternative sexual and gender identities. Admitting that one is gay, lesbian or bisexual is extraordinarily difficult. When a student has the courage to come out to his or her classmates and school professionals, the school has an obligation under New Jersey’s Civil Rights statute, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, to support and protect that student against discrimination and retaliation by school employees or by fellow students.
The school must not permit the creation of a hostile, intimidating or abusive educational environment predicated upon the student’s actual or even perceived or affectional sexual orientation. If the school does permit this, or fails to prevent such an atmosphere by failing to educate, or if a school fails to investigate or deter sexual orientation harassment, the school board or entity may be liable for compensatory damages, punitive damages, equitable remedies and attorneys’ fees.
Name calling, sexual stereotyping, and even cyberbullying that takes place outside the school must, nonetheless, be addressed by the school and, where appropriate, investigated, deterred and punished. A school board that fails in this responsibility because it’s being lazy, inattentive or attempting to conserve resources is violating both the New Jersey Anti-Bullying Law and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.
The Mount Laurel LGBT rights law firm of Costello & Mains, LLC, has been litigating LGBT cases for workers and students throughout the state of New Jersey for nearly 30 years. We’re noteworthy in the LGBT community of parents and students, as well as workers, for being at the forefront of the LGBT advocacy.
If your student is brave enough to be who he or she is, but the school isn’t recognizing the youth’s courage and protecting his or her rights and dignity, then call us. We will explain it to the school administrators.