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SPLC alleges Miss. school district allowed gay students to be bullied, harassed

Thursday, March 21, 2013

JACKSON, Miss. — An advocacy group said Thursday that gay and lesbian students at a south Mississippi school are subjected to bullying and harassment from classmates and faculty.

The Southern Poverty Law Center sent a letter Thursday to the Moss Point School District on behalf of Destin Holmes, a former student who says she was bullied and humiliated at Magnolia Junior High School in the city of Moss Point.

Destin Holmes

Destin claims that in the first three days she was enrolled at Magnolia Junior High, she was repeatedly referred to as “he” by teachers, even though she repeatedly told them that she was a “she.”

Throughout the school year, teachers and students called Destin “it,” “queer” and “he-she,” she said.

Teachers allegedly denied Destin access to the girls’ restroom, and Destin claims that one teacher even refused to allow her to participate in a classroom activity where teams were divided by gender.

The teacher’s reason? Destin was “in between.”

Destin and her family said school administrators did not stop the bullying, which happened last year while she was an eighth grade student. They also say that when she complained to school officials in March 2012, a principal used a gay slur for lesbians and said they shouldn’t attend the school.

“I don’t want a dyke in this school,” the principal allegedly said.

Destin, 16, said she’s being home-schooled now because she didn’t want to go back to Magnolia under those conditions.

The SPLC’s demand, stated in a letter sent to district officials today, comes after students asked the organization to investigate rampant harassment within the district’s schools. The investigation found that students – and even faculty members – have regularly targeted LGBT students and those perceived as LGBT.

“Students face enough obstacles in school without also enduring violence and abuse for simply being different,” said Sam Wolfe, senior staff attorney for the SPLC’s LGBT Rights Project. “They are entitled by law to attend school in an environment where they are not singled out and tormented because of their sexual orientation or gender nonconformity.”

The letter notes that school officials “routinely ignore severe and pervasive anti-LGBT harassment.” School officials often blame students for the harassment they have experienced – even punishing them for defending themselves. Several LGBT students said school administrators told them to simply “suck it up” after they reported bullying.

A school district official, Stephanie Packer, said in an emailed statement later Thursday that the district would have no comment at this time.

“This is currently an ongoing investigation,” the statement added.

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19 more reader comments:

  1. fire the faculty and hire all new, non prejudice employees

    Posted on Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 6:49pm
  2. Not surprising since it’s in the south. Still disappointing though.

    Posted on Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 6:49pm
  3. This is disgusting…

    Posted on Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 6:52pm
  4. Come on guys, it’s 2013. We can do better than this.

    Posted on Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 6:52pm
  5. Now that no big surprise

    Posted on Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 6:53pm
  6. this happened to my daughter here in Eastern TN. She is now homeschooled because it became unbearable for her!

    Posted on Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 6:54pm
  7. Not cool at all….

    Posted on Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 6:57pm
  8. Disgusting, I couldn’t even finish reading it. It’s bad enough when kids bully, but to have the teachers doing it too? That’s just…ugh!

    Posted on Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 6:59pm
  9. can someone pls explain to me what the H is wrong with Mississippi ?

    Posted on Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 7:09pm
  10. I couldn’t either. I read enough though. People always tell me, “Your kids need socialization if they don’t go to regular school.” I don’t think that a lot of the crap going on in the school is good for kids. My kids respect differences and would find this horrendous. Poor kid. Shame on these teachers and kids. Wow!

    Posted on Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 7:10pm
  11. Oh, honey. I’m so sorry, on behalf of all of us in MS who would (and do) respect you, no matter what, just because you’re a real person and deserving of respect.

    Except, of course, for those hateful, evil douchecanoes who have no business drawing a breath in public, much less “leading” or “teaching” our youth. *They* deserve no less than… well, I can’t say what they deserve, in a comment directed to a young teen, but I WILL say that it involves a rusty spork and it wouldn’t be very pleasant.

    It gets better. And – with kids like you, and people like your parents supporting you, and the SPLC (and others) pushing the issue, shining the light on injustice, dragging it into the bright of day and refusing to accept injustice – it will get better *quickly*.

    All the love, babes. All the love.

    Posted on Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 7:14pm
  12. Take every last one of the school employees and anyone involved to court, sue them til it hurts!!

    Posted on Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 7:16pm
  13. from what i read it’s all allegations..i wasn’t there to know what did or didn’t happen

    Posted on Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 7:43pm
  14. Karen Wolfe: There has to be a TON of corroborating evidence and witnesses for the SPLC to get involved and be going forward with this.

    Posted on Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 7:46pm
  15. Ok Melanie..no problem i am sorry bad things happen

    Posted on Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 7:48pm
  16. Karen: I’m so sorry that adults can’t be trusted, so often, to set a good example and to practice what they preach. This is the deep, deep South – and I guarantee you that most of the adults involved here are at their church every Sunday and profess to be solid christians. That “love one another” and “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is, unfortunately, looked at as a suggestion rather than an order, by far too many. I’m not looking to argue with you, Karen – and I appreciate your step back, I do – but I think that when things like this happen, it’s time – hell, it’s well past time – for us to all step up and not just be sorry that bad things happen. It’s time to STOP BAD THINGS FROM HAPPENING BY STOPPING BAD PEOPLE FROM CAUSING THEM. Things don’t just “happen”. People cause things to happen. Fix the attitudes. Fix the prejudices. Fix the wrongs.

    Posted on Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 7:53pm
  17. Everything is “allegations” in life. I am sure there is evidence. This has got to be very hard for a child. This is unconstitutional. They brought in gender. I know there is more than this, but that violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964. As for the South, I would like to say that I experienced discrimination in other areas that was really bad and not in the South. Too quickly, we conclude it is just someone else’s area that causes the problems. Lots of issues in Chicago and all over. Hate is around.. So is love, but hate reared its ugly head here. Melanie is proof that good people are everywhere.

    Posted on Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 8:03pm
  18. If you are gay and still live in ole Miss you are nutso

    Posted on Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 9:42pm
  19. No surprise there. Mississippi is one of the most uneducated places in the entire country. I bet their history books probably still say “Here comes America!”

    Posted on Friday, March 22, 2013 at 5:26am