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California: School 'outed' lesbian student

Wed 3 Oct 2007 In: International News

A lesbian high school student who sued a Californian school and her principal for revealing her homosexuality to her mother did not have her rights violated, a federal judge has ruled. The ruling was filed last week, almost 10 months after the trial ended. It found that Charlene Nguon was treated no differently from straight students. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Charlene Nguon, 19, was singled out because of her sexual orientation and unfairly disciplined by school officials, who 'outed' her to her mother. Nguon had also claimed she was singled out and punished by Santiago High School officials for hugging and kissing her girlfriend on campus. Her and her mother filed the lawsuit along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and the Gay Straight Alliance Network. "The School Defendant's disciplining of Charlene was not motivated, either in whole or in part, by her sexual orientation," wrote US District Judge Selna in the ruling. Dennis Walsh, an attorney for the Garden Grove Unified School District, said the district would file a motion seeking repayment of nearly US$400,000 (NZ$527,800) in legal fees from the plaintiffs. "The judge sends a pretty clear message: They had their day in court and they couldn't prove any of their claims," Walsh said. Nguon's attorneys say they will appeal the ruling: "There's absolutely no doubt in my mind that their despicable treatment of her was totally caused by their dislike of her sexual orientation," attorney Dan Stormer said. "Charlene is the type of child every parent should be proud of," said Christine P. Sun, a staff attorney for the ACLU of Southern California and the ACLU national Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project in a statement at the time of the trial. "We've tried to work out this situation with the school district so it's very unfortunate that it has come to this point. Instead of derailing Charlene's academic achievements, school administrators should have done their job to ensure every student thrives regardless of their sexual orientation." Santiago High School administrators targeted and punished Nguon and her girlfriend for displaying affection on campus, even though similar displays by heterosexual students were common and generally went unpunished, said Sun. On one occasion, Nguon was suspended for a week for hugging her girlfriend on campus. As a result of the disciplinary measures, her candidacy for the National Honour Society was rescinded. To keep the two girls apart, officials forced Nguon to transfer schools midway through the second semester of her junior year. After the ACLU intervened on her behalf, Nguon was allowed to return to Santiago, but the school made no effort to improve the climate on campus. Sun added, "Not only did the school punish Charlene because she was affectionate with her girlfriend, they referred her to counselling for 'persistent public display of relationship with another girl' as if her sexual orientation was an affliction that could be cured."     Ref: (m)

Credit: News Staff

First published: Wednesday, 3rd October 2007 - 10:50am

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