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Education Law

Gay students are routinely bullied in one Miss. school district, suit alleges

Posted Dec 18, 2013 2:35 PM CDT
By Mark Hansen

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Gay students in one Mississippi school district are subject to routine bullying, a lawsuit against the district alleges.

The suit, filed Tuesday in federal court in Gulfport, alleges that district officials have done little to remedy the situation, the Sun Herald reports.

The case was filed on behalf of Destin Holmes, a 17-year-old lesbian, who says she was bullied to the point that she left the middle school where she was a student last year to be home-schooled by her parents.

It names as defendants the Moss Point School District, the school board, the superintendent and the former principal of Magnolia Middle School, where Holmes was a student.

The suit alleges that Holmes was targeted for abuse by students and teachers alike because of her sexual orientation.

It says one teacher forced Holmes to sit in the middle of a classroom when the class was divided into groups of girls and boys. It also says a teacher refused to allow Holmes to use the girls' restroom, telling her to use the boys' restroom instead. It says Holmes was referred to as a "freak" and an "it" by both students and teachers.

Holmes says she quit when the former principal, using a gay slur, told her he didn't want her there.

"I am not an 'it.' I am a person," Holmes said in a conference call with reporters and her lawyers at the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Clarion-Ledger reports.

District officials released a statement saying they could not speak to the specifics of the claims. But it said protecting its students from acts of bullying, harassment, intimidation and threats is its "highest priority." It also said the district has "policies and procedures" in place to protect students from bullying and discrimination.

"We, as most districts across the nation, try to ensure that our students are safe and secure," it said.

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