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Lesbian Kid Suspended For Standing Up to Anti-Gay Bullying Sues

Lesbian Kid Suspended For Standing Up to Anti-Gay Bullying Sues

A Florida high school student is alleging school officials violated her rights when they banned her from participating in an anti-bullying observance and then suspended her from school.

In April of last year, DeSoto County school student Amber Hatcher, then 15, was making plans to participate in the National Day of Silence. The event is a student-led day sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) that encourages students across the country to remain silent in order to call attention to the silencing effect anti-LGBT bullying — and, indeed, all bullying — has on kids.

Hatcher claims she asked for permission from her principal, Mrs. Shannon Fusco, nearly a month in advance of the event. She also provided information from GLSEN and Lambda Legal about students’ rights to participate in such actions per First Amendment protections, and the limits to those rights (you do not have a right to remain silent while in class, for instance, and this is why discussing the event with faculty members is advised before the day itself).

Hatcher asserts that Principal Fusco then threatened her with what the suit terms “ramifications” if she attempted to observe the Day of Silence.

Hatcher went over Fusco’s head to appeal to the DeSoto County School Superintendent, Adrian Cline. The superintendent repeatedly refused to meet with Hatcher. He then allegedly directed Principal Fusco to tell Hatcher her request was “disapproved” [sic] because, he claimed, allowing student participation in the Day of Silence was not allowed — this despite Hatcher having offered evidence that legal precedent was clearly on her side.

Principal Fusco is then said to have repeatedly told Hatcher that she would be barred from participating in the event, and that there “would be consequences” should she make an attempt to observe the Day of Silence. The suit even alleges that Fusco called Hatcher’s parents and suggested Hatcher be kept home from school on that day.

In due course, Lambda Legal got involved and on April 19, 2012, the suit details that Lambda Legal sent a letter to both the principal and superintendent in which it outlined the legal grounds that make it clear Hatcher, and indeed any student, has a right to observe the Day of Silence. The letter also warned that barring Hatcher from participating could be grounds for a lawsuit.

The suit claims the letter was ignored.

On April 20, 2012, the National Day of Silence, Amber came to school wearing a red T-shirt with the message “DOS April 20, 2012: Shhhhh.” As is standard on the Day of Silence, she communicated by dry-erase board with peers and teachers. She was soon called into the dean’s office, whereby she was informed she had been suspended from school for the day.

In the lawsuit, Hatcher v. DeSoto County Board of Education, et al. filed on February 23 against DeSoto County Board of Education, Lambda Legal argues the high school violated Hatcher’s First Amendment rights.

The suit requests a court order to ensure that Hatcher and other DeSoto County High School students are able to observe this year’s Day of Silence on April 19, 2013, without interference.

Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Beth Littrell is quoted as saying, “Amber was respectfully and peacefully calling attention to a real problem: LGBT students at DeSoto County High School feel unwelcome and unsafe. The school should be working to help support LGBT students rather than punishing students who are standing up against bullying. By threatening, censoring and punishing Amber for her efforts to simply raise awareness, school officials disregarded her rights as well as the Constitution.”

The school is yet to comment on the suit.

 

Related Reading:

Students Aren’t the Only Ones Facing Bullying in the Classroom

A Horrible Bullying Story; a Happy Ending

The Neuroscience of Bullying

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144 comments

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10:59PM PDT on Jul 2, 2013

For those who have asked, the case is going very well! As you probably know, the injunction we wanted was denied because it was deemed unnecessary, but in all other aspects we are going strong. I'll tell you, though- the law world is really... interesting, to say the least. :)
Thank you so much for the support!

4:26PM PDT on Jul 2, 2013

Amber, has there been any movement on your suit?

And CONGRATULATIONS for being so courageous.

9:35AM PDT on Jul 2, 2013

Glad to have you come in Amber.....I've sent you a Care2 friend request. I'm sure you're busy but feel free to pop in when you can and be part of the family here, we'd love to have you. There are probably many topics of discussion here you'd be interested in. Plus I'd like to know how the case is going.

8:08AM PDT on Jul 2, 2013

You hang in the Amber, we (and a whole lot of other good people) are behind you!

6:49AM PDT on Jul 2, 2013

GOOD FOR YOU, Amber! We're proud of you!

10:30PM PDT on Jul 1, 2013

Guys, I can't even begin to process this. I've been going over some of the articles about my case to see how the media is portraying it, and I come across this! This is honestly the best thing I've ever had happen to me. I'm glad to know that I'm making an impact! Thank you so much for your support!

2:09AM PDT on Mar 11, 2013

The human brain is only fully developed at 24-25 years old. Children go to school to learn. They should learn all about nature's myriad ways of reproduction, sexual or asexual, what sexual orientation is and explore the reasons why human gender orientations differ. With knowledge comes understanding and tolerance. Children should not feel the need to declare their own sexual orientation until their teen hormones have settled and they are fully adult.

10:37PM PST on Mar 9, 2013

Nikolas K, it is not a personal agenda.

Yes, she is lesbian and the National Day of Silence has to do with the LBGTI community. But this specific day was not to get a law put into motion or to do anything but reflect on the fact that a lot of gay teens do still feel forced to remain in the closet out of fear for their lives or their place in their families and society. She didn't come to school wearing LESBIAN in bold print on her t-shirt. She just allowed people to realize that the way that she was silent that one day is how some people feel they've been silenced their whole lives.

10:03AM PST on Mar 9, 2013

Amber Hatcher seems to be a really upstanding young woman, that knows her rights and acts accordingly. The principal of De Soto County Highschool and the superintendent of the school district, need to go back to school and learn about the Constitution. If the suit, which I hope is won, leads to a win for Ms. Hatcher and Lambda Legal, I suggest this school and county educational board, realizes they can't silence students. If they don't comply, I think they should lose any federal funding. It goes without saying that the two culprits should face the unemloyment line.

9:57AM PST on Mar 9, 2013

Nikoals K. Why on Earth are you a member of Care2 when you accuse this site for being biased on issues? Why don't you keep Fox News as your only source for information?

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