Students at a California high school were told by school authorities that only "gender appropriate" attire will be acceptable for prom attendance and yearbook photos. According to NBC News, the ACLU has now joined the fray around a series of decisions by officials at Sultana High School in Hesperia County, California which they say target the school's LGBTQ students for unfair discrimination.
The ACLU and law firm Nixon Peabody has fired off an 11-page letter to Hesperia County Schools Interim Superintendent David McLaughlin citing multiple instances of anti-LGBTQ discrimination at the school, which the rights group insists must end by March 25. The suit also orders school officials to intervene in instances of anti-LGBTQ bullying, something they have reportedly declined to do in several cases.
Among a brace of charges of anti-LGBTQ insults and verbal abuse by school personnel, students at Sultana have been informed that girl students will not be allowed to attend the prom in tuxedos. Boy students, on the other hand, are required to wear them.
Kyle Bodda, president of the Sultana Gay Straight Alliance, said, "All students should feel safe and free to be themselves at school. I'm hopeful the administration does the right thing and creates a safe environment where we can be ourselves without fear of being harassed."
Superintendant McLaughlin said he is resigning his post this spring so that he may fully focus on an investigation into reported instances of homophobic bullying by Sultana High School teachers and other staff.
"These allegations are deeply concerning and they have my full and focused attention," McLaughlin said. "While the ACLU letter focuses specifically on the rights of gay and lesbian students, I see it as a moral imperative to reinforce the current efforts in place regarding anti-bullying and tolerance throughout the district."
One male student was reportedly told by a teacher that he didn't receive a valentine on Valentine's Day because "you're gay and nobody wants to be with you." Administrators have reportedly freely used the word "gay" as an insult, in one instance telling a boy student to "take the gay headband off." Another teacher called a male student's candidacy for homecoming queen a "joke."
Furthermore, officials have blocked and censored activities and presentations by LGBTQ student groups, tearing down flyers and preventing the use of school facilities for meetings. According to the ACLU, the school also discriminated against a teacher who helped a student file a complaint against another school official after an incident of homophobic bullying. The school called her a "bad fit" for the institution.
ACLU attorney Melissa Goodman described the situation as unacceptable.
"California law makes it crystal clear schools cannot discriminate against LGBTQ students based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression," she said.
Watch video about this story, embedded via MSNBC, below: