SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — Lambda Legal has filed a lawsuit in California Superior Court claiming the Hesperia Unified School District and administrators at Sultana High School violated state law by not renewing the contract of an openly lesbian teacher in retaliation for her support of LGBT students who had alleged they were being harassed and discrimination against.
In the complaint filed Tuesday in San Bernardino County Superior Court, Lambda Legal said the school district unlawfully retaliated against Julia Frost becuase she protected lesbian, gay, and gender non-conforming students and advised them how to exercise their free speech rights.
The complaint documents several instances of alleged discrimination and harassment, of school administrators’ failing to investigate complaints, and of those same administrators repeatedly blocking the efforts of the Sultana Gay Straight Alliance to publicize and hold activities.
“From day one, Julia Frost was subjected to harassment by administrators and other faculty because of her sexual orientation,” said Jennifer Pizer, Lambda Legal Senior Counsel and Director, Law and Policy Project.
“When she was asked to co-sponsor the Gay/Straight Alliance student club at Sultana, she stepped up. And when she saw the criticism and open hostility directed at gay, lesbian and gender non-confirming students in the hallways and classrooms, she helped them understand how to make formal complaints, said Pizer.
“Sultana High officials pushed Julia Frost out for being a kind and conscientious teacher and for creating a safe space for vulnerable students. In other words, she was punished for doing her job,” she said.
Article continues belowSultana High School’s hostile environment for LGBT students first came to light in March, when the ACLU of Southern California sent a letter to Hesperia USD on behalf of the Sultana GSA club describing pervasive discrimination and harassment.
While denying such an environment existed, the school district agreed in August to implement an array of policy changes, including awareness training for faculty and staff.
“Notwithstanding the hostile work environment (Sultana) officials created, Julia was a beloved teacher who received five very positive performance reviews before the ACLU publicly criticized Sultana’s treatment of lesbian, gay and gender non-conforming students,” said Bert Voorhees of Trabe r& Voorhees, Lambda Legal’s co-counsel in the lawsuit.