ACLU Fights to Protect Harassment of LGBT Students

March 14, 2007

The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties filed an amicus brief today in support of two Poway high school students who endured continual harassment because of their sexual orientation. Megan Donovan and Joseph Ramelli were LGBT students at Poway High School who endured prolonged harassment and abuse at the hands of fellow students. They repeatedly reported the problem, but school authorities did nothing to stop it.

A jury found the district liable under state law and the officials liable under federal law, awarding a total of $300,000 to plaintiffs. The defendants appealed, contending that Education Code § 220, which provides that no “person shall be subjected to discrimination on the basis of … actual or perceived” sexual orientation “in any program or activity conducted by an educational institution that receives, or benefits from, state financial assistance,” should mirror the less demanding federal standard, which imposes liability only for “deliberate indifference” to known acts of harassment.

In support of Plaintiffs’ position that the California legislature created a stricter standard for liability, the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties prepared an amicus curiae brief to explain that compliance with such a standard would impose no undue burdens on prudent and responsible school districts. The ACLU of Southern California and the ACLU of Northern California joined in filing the brief.

Read the Brief