ACLU settles lawsuit with Corona del Mar High School over tolerating homophobia and sexism on campus
I’m awfully glad the ACLU of Southern California pursued this lawsuit and I hope it sends an important message to school officials everywhere about allowing a homophobic atmosphere to thrive on their campus.
The ACLU of Southern California and the law firm of Hadsell, Stormer, Keeny, Richardson and Renick LLP have just announced that they have settled a lawsuit against Orange County’s Newport- Mesa Unified School District and Corona del Mar High School over a sexist and homophobic atmosphere that officials permitted to flourish at the school.
The settlement agreement filed today in Orange County Superior Court resolves a lawsuit over an environment that led to despicable threats of violence against Hail Ketchum, a senior at Corona del Mar High School at the time.
Under the terms of the settlement, district officials will provide a written apology to Ms. Ketchum. The district also will provide mandatory training sessions for administrators, teachers and students that will focus on the harmful impact of sexual discrimination and harassment, as well as on federal law and district complaint protocols to be followed whenever anyone experiences discrimination or harassment based on sex, sexual orientation and gender identity.
“The mandated training will make it clear to administrators, teachers and students not only what constitutes sexism and homophobia, but what school officials must do to deal with it – and prevent it from spreading – according to the law,” said Hector Villagra, director of the ACLU/SC’s Orange County office.
Ms. Ketchum, who agreed to be publicly identified for the first time today, said that while the district’s apology to her is important, she’s been primarily interested in ensuring that district officials do everything they can to prevent other students from being the target of vitriolic comments and threats like those she experienced.
Those attacks “were disgusting and very disturbing to me personally,” she said. “But what was really disheartening is that when I complained about them, the administrators did little to deal with them. I’m happy that the settlement provides the school with a road map of how to address situations like this more appropriately.”
Corona Del Mar High School also made headlines earlier this year over the brief cancellation of Rent, a musical involving gay characters. Principal Fal Asrani was accused by drama instructor Ron Martin of killing his department’s toned-down production of the play about various New York artists, some of them gay, struggling with bills and drug addiction.
The OC Register reports that while Martin claimed the principal derailed the play because of homophobia, she told a far different story, saying she merely asked to review the script and never objected to “Rent” being performed. After nationwide media attention, she received a copy of the script and allowed the play to proceed.
Asrani, who departed for a district in Los Angeles. has been replaced by Tim Bryan, whose 27-year career in education has included work as a teacher, instructional dean and assistant principal. He beat out more than 70 applicants to win the job.