Students, teachers at California high school claim anti-gay bias on campus


MENIFEE, Calif. — Students and teachers at a California high school say there is a pattern of bullying, harassment and discrimination against gay and lesbian students, and that the school district has not done enough to alter the campus culture.

And now, teachers and students at Paloma Valley High School in Menifee, Calif., have taken their concerns to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

“We are troubled by what we are hearing and are looking into what we’ve been told is an anti-gay and homophobic environment,” said James Gilliam, an attorney and deputy executive director for the ACLU of Southern California.

The Riverside Press-Enterprise reports:

In one instance, a Paloma Valley High School student alleged a teacher wrote an “S” on her hand and called her “a sinner.” In another, a student group says it was barred from doing an activity for gay and lesbian history month, though an ethnic student group could.

An openly gay senior says he was unfairly disciplined after a dispute with a classmate who he says harassed him. […]

Andrew Braham, 17, says he has endured harassment since his freshman year. He says he was disciplined after a series of verbal disputes, but others involved received lesser punishments.

The allegations at Paloma Valley come as bullying and harassment of gay teens has drawn national attention, in part because of a rash of suicides by teens and young adults who say they were bullied because they are or were perceived to be gay.

District officials said they are considering more anti-bullying training for students and staff and working to expand programs to other district high schools.

ACLU attorney Peter Eliasberg said he is looking into five school districts in Southern California where gay students allege discrimination or bullying. He also is representing Wendy Walsh, the mother of 13-year-old Seth Walsh, of Tehachapi, who committed suicide last year after he was repeatedly bullied for being gay.

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