Orange County School District Agrees to Mandatory Harassment/Discrimination Prevention Trainings Following Outrageous Incidents of Homophobia and Sexism

rsz_corona_del_mar_cropOn Wednesday morning, Newport-Mesa Unified School District in Orange County settled the lawsuit brought against them in March by the ACLU of Southern California for failing to address the hostile environment of homophobia and sexism at Corona del Mar High School, which permitted a particularly vicious verbal attack against one student.

The LA Times reported that in January three football players posted a video on Facebook, in which they voiced anti-gay slurs and suggested sexually assaulting and killing their female classmate, Hail Ketchum, who was playing the role of Mimi in the high school’s version of the musical ‘Rent.’  600 students viewed the video before it was removed.

An LA Times Blog article published the day that the ACLU filed its suit reported that administrators did little to punish the boys or protect Ketchum, who had to rearrange her class schedule to avoid the boys, one of whom threatened her in person.

According to the Orange County Register, the ACLU stated in March that Corona del Mar High School administrators were “permitting and sanctioning an atmosphere that is hostile to female, lesbian, bisexual, gay, and transgender students in general, and has led to despicable threats of violence against one student in particular.”

While school district officials still admit to no wrongdoing, they did agree to settle the case outside of court.  According to the blog GregInHollywood, the terms of the settlement require that the district 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 district will also provide a written apology to Ketchum, who is now a freshman at Loyola Marymount University, and agreed to publicly identify herself for the first time on Wednesday.

The LA Times quoted a statement read by her parents at a news conference Wednesday morning, in which Ketchum said:

No one else will have to go through what I went through… I hope the students of Corona del Mar High School will learn from my experience that it’s possible to stand up for what is right and prevail.

GregInHollywood reported Ketchum as saying:

[Those attacks] were disgusting and very disturbing to me personally… 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.

Schools around the country are struggling to deal with this type of discrimination and harassment every day.  Our sister organization, the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), has been working since 1995 to make schools safer for all students.  We recommend several resources they have to offer for school officials, parents, and students alike at http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/antibullying/index.html

We at GLAAD will continue to monitor media reports of homophobia and sexism in schools and keep you informed.