Today the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education reached a significant settlement with the Tehachapi Unified School District, following an investigation into harassment of Seth Walsh based on his non-conformity with gender stereotypes. Seth Walsh killed himself in September 2010 after enduring years of bullying and harassment at school. (Please see the DOJ press release here.)
The DOJ & DOE investigation in the Tehachapi Unified School District confirmed that Seth Walsh was targeted for harassment at school for two years and that the school district did not fulfill its responsibilities to protect him from this harassment. As a result of the settlement, the school district will implement a series of specific policies, procedures and training that will better protect students from sexual harassment and harassment based on gender stereotypes.
This settlement is one of the first of its kind in the country, and perhaps the most comprehensive, under the DOE definition of gender stereotyping that includes sexual orientation.
“The findings from the DOJ and the DOE send a clear message that protection of students in public schools is of paramount importance. When it comes to stopping harassment based on sexual orientation and gender perception, schools need to get it right or face the consequences,” said James Gilliam, Director of the Seth Walsh Project at the ACLU of Southern California. “Better harassment policies save lives and make a safer environment for all students. No student should feel threatened for being who they are.”