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Mississippi

Lawsuit: LGBT students routinely bullied in Miss. school district

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

JACKSON, Miss. — A lawsuit filed Tuesday says LGBT students are routinely bullied in a south Mississippi school district, including a lesbian who was forced to sit alone in the middle of a classroom when others were split into groups of boys and girls.

Destin Holmes

Destin Holmes

The Southern Poverty Law Center filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Gulfport against the school district in the city of Moss Point. The lawsuit names as defendants the Moss Point School District, school board, superintendent and the former principal of Magnolia Junior High School.

The superintendent’s office referred questions on Tuesday to a district spokeswoman, who did not immediately respond to a phone message.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 17-year-old Destin Holmes, but it also says other gay and transgender students, or those who are perceived to be, are subjected to similar treatment. One boy attempted suicide.

“I wish I could go to school without being afraid of being who I am,” Holmes said in a conference call with reporters and her lawyers on Tuesday.

The lawsuit says Holmes was called names like “freak” and “it” when she was an eight-grader in 2011 and members of the school’s staff were among those who used gay slurs, according to the lawsuit.

“I am not an ‘it.’ I am a person,” Holmes said on the conference call.

On one occasion, the lawsuit said a teacher wouldn’t let Holmes use the girls’ restroom, telling her to use the boys’ restroom instead. It says another teacher refused to allow her to participate in a classroom math activity in which teams were divided by gender, calling her an “in between it.”

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The situation culminated in March 2012 when the man who was principal of Magnolia Junior High at the time used a gay slur and told Holmes that he didn’t want her in the school, the lawsuit says.

The girl’s father and grandmother removed her from Magnolia Junior High and homeschooled for a time, but sh e enrolled at Moss Point High School this year when the family could no longer afford to teach her at home, according to the SPLC.

Holmes said Tuesday that the situation is better at the high school, particularly with her treatment from other students, but she said there have still been some problems. She said a substitute teacher at the high school, who knew she was a girl, referred to her by masculine pronouns in a written note.

SPLC attorney Anjali Nair said during Tuesday’s conference call that SPLC sent a letter to the school district in March hoping to improve the treatment of Holmes and others. Nair says no deal was reached and the mistreatment continued.

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Filed under: Mississippi

54 more reader comments:

  1. This is not surprising at all. I grew up in that hellhole, and they seem determined to remain as backward as fucking possible, in every way possible.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 7:32pm
  2. I spent three years there and I hear you loud and clear.

    Replied on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 7:44pm
  3. I grew up in Mississippi too... was in high school in the late 60's.... NO ONE came out... don't think there was any bullying.... but times have changed a lot... and not for the better, it seems.

    Replied on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 8:09pm
  4. I used to work in Pascagoula and lived in Lucedale…

    Replied on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 10:08pm
  5. WTF!!

    Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 7:39pm
  6. That’s MS for you. Leave it FOREVER.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 7:42pm
  7. People in middle America are ignorant and scare of the gay community.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 7:43pm
  8. Scared? Scared? More like disgusted....nasty...

    Replied on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:57am
  9. ^Terrified

    Replied on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 4:22am
  10. IGNORANCE of the LGBTQI Community is every where! Including NY and Cali.too, but I agree, there is definitely more in certain places than others! I hope this changes very soon for the sake of all of us!! Keep fighting the Good fight everyone and be safe and well! PEACE!!!

    Replied on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 6:01am
  11. When I lived there it was “simple”. We didn’t exist and we didn’t allow ourselves to exist. I hope that state finally grows up.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 7:45pm
  12. I live in Mississippi, and I believe there is hope for this state yet. We will continue fighting until stuff like this doesn’t happen anymore.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 7:53pm
  13. Please do, Kaileen. *ALL* Mississippians have a birthright there, not just the ones who fit the conservative mold.

    Replied on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 8:10pm
  14. Agreed 150%!

    Replied on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 8:11pm
  15. Good luck. I'll help you if I can!

    Replied on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 7:58am
  16. It horrible and very difficult, you are the first’s out and open. You are the pioneers fighting for equality and your right to live as you are. I think you are a gift in this fight, and love and support you for doing it. Stay strong and remain true to yourself and this important movement we need to take place. xoxo

    Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 8:01pm
  17. this must change! And it WILL…

    Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 8:02pm
  18. I lived in NYC for 16yrs and not once was my friends bulled for being gay, but when I moved to VA one of my friends was bulled and I said some thing but nothing happened. It’s like know one gives a fuck and it makes me sick

    Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 8:04pm
  19. :(

    Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 8:07pm
  20. I won’t begin to defend the behavior of the MPSD. I’ve lived in this area for the majority of my life and it is, indeed, a hotbed of bigotry and hatred. I’m thankful the SPLC is fighting this insanity.

    HOWEVER, unless the smug self righteous among thee plan to pay off our mortgages, buy our businesses, etc and provide all of us who move with a new home and job … as well as assure we and our children will be safe and secure in your utopian part of the world, then you might want to try and SUPPORT those of us still here trying to make a difference. Why? Because when you write off the entire STATE you say to Destin and me and our families / friends that we don’t matter and aren’t worth the fight …. because, y’all know… It’s JUST Mississippi.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 8:07pm
  21. Beautifully said, Kyla!

    Replied on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 8:12pm
  22. I spent thirty-six years there trying my damnedest to make it a better place, and you know what? The state damn near killed me. So please don't assume that I just gave it up out of hand. I'm glad you and others are stronger than I am, and that you can stay and do the groundbreaking work that needs to be done. But others of us have to work in other ways to help. And that's what I've chosen to do.

    Replied on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 8:15pm
  23. It's great that there are those who stay and fight, but it's also okay to leave if that's what you need for your sanity and health. More power to the both of you, Kyla & Rebecca!

    Replied on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 9:34pm
  24. What assholes

    Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 8:28pm
  25. Having few to no other options doesn’t make me stronger. Sadly many of us would take the option to leave. It’s just not there. So we plod on and yes, it’ll probably be the death of us, one way or the other. It will certainly take the work of many on the inside AND the outside to make it better. :)

    Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 8:42pm
  26. Those schools need justice and being sued bc of mistreating her. That is so not right

    Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 8:48pm
  27. Those schools need justice and being sued bc of mistreating her. That is so not right

    Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 8:48pm
  28. Shameful. I hope they are able to improve things for LGBT kids there soon.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 8:49pm
  29. Go get them, this school district, needs to get a clue and live in the real world. There hateful behavior is against the law!

    Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 9:15pm
  30. mississippi and texas are just gross

    Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 9:16pm
  31. i hope she sues the ignorance out of them!! their tune will change but not the ignorance in their hearts, compassion should come naturally…

    Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 9:43pm
  32. Stay strong kids who are bullied!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 10:08pm
  33. No human should be bullied- that’s that’s the facts!!

    Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 10:51pm
  34. Look what you are teaching our kids…glad I dont live there I would pull my kids out for allowing the teachers, principals, etc.. for teaching hate …AND YOU WONDER WHATS WRONG WITH OUR WORLD? Take a look at yourself…bullies are just weak minded, weak period.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 10:55pm
  35. >:c

    Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 11:30pm
  36. Horrible…the south is pathetic, steeped in religious bullshit and predjudice….

    Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 11:45pm
  37. In time all wrongs will be made right.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:27am
  38. What more can we expect From Mrs.Pissi? Douchebags

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 1:48am
  39. It should be completely unacceptable for a school to “teach” discrimination by their staff. School is about education and discovering new ways to think and how to work together. There must be more enforced laws that prohibit discrimination against the LGBTQ community. Human rights do not pertain to only a select group of people, human rights must be understood as a necessity beyond what we may perceive people to be. To Destin Holmes, it gets better because there are people here to support and push for your freedom <3

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 1:55am
  40. It is against the laws of man and god to harm people regardless.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 2:13am
  41. wow, how pathetic. She is beautiful no matter what those idiots say!!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 2:39am
  42. I am from Mississippi… unfortunately, it’s becoming worse and worse… people are so uneducated and I have been disowned by my own family because I am bisexual.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 2:41am
  43. Just confirms that Mississippi is populated by ignorant bigots.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 2:52am
  44. This is absolutely disgusting!!!! I am so sorry that this is happening. Teachers are some of the few people that today’s youth can go to, and should be able to trust. As a future teacher, this is absolutely wrong. I’m so sorry to her and others who have been bullied. It’s one thing if students do it. Teachers should call the kids out on it and the bullying students should face a sort of punishment. But if a teacher is doing it… that’s absolutely horrible. To Destin and all of the others, please please know that you’re worth more. You are amazing for standing up against this. I am so sorry that it is happening to you, and this is so wrong. My heart breaks reading this. You are worth SO much more!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 3:25am
  45. I hope you win I keep this in my heart that you will be the winner you already are

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 4:17am
  46. Shocking! Many workplaces are not supportive of LGBT issues and this needs to be changed.

    I am studying LGBT experiences at work as part of my master’s Thesis at Michigan State University.

    If you please could help by taking a quick survey about your work experiences — that would be greatly appreciated :) To thank you for your time, you will receive $10 online Amazon gift card.

    Message me on facebook for the link: http://www.facebook.com/diversityresearchlab

    Sincerely,

    Christine Kermond
    Master’s Student at Michigan State University

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 4:32am
  47. When does it end?

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 5:52am
  48. Never live in the South. Like ever…

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 6:45am
  49. ((

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 7:12am
  50. If I was born in Mississippi, the first thing I’d do, is make a plan to get the fuck out of Mississippi !

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 7:57am
  51. You know I am so fed up with the discrimination towards gays and lesbians, and transgender people enough is enough they are people to they have feelings and they also deserve to have equal rights

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 8:02am
  52. Good going girl! Keep up the tension and standing tall!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 8:12am
  53. please-i wouldnt go to mississippi -for all the tea in china–more dirtgoing on there then the sands of time-

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 9:39am
  54. very good

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:02pm