NCLR Responds to Indianapolis Public Schools Termination of Expulsion of Bullied Gay Student

August 7, 2012

(Indianapolis, IN, August 7, 2012)—On Monday, Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) ended the expulsion of Dynasty Young, a former Arsenal Technical High School student who was expelled after school leaders failed to protect him from relentless anti-gay bullying, but refused to permit him to return to the school or any traditional high school in the district. Instead, in a letter signed by Chief of Staff Dexter Suggs, the district assigned Young to the New Horizons Alternative School, which describes itself on its website as a school for “students who cannot adjust to a traditional school setting.”

“It is shameful that Indianapolis Public Schools still has not accepted responsibility for failing to provide a safe environment for Dynasty,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights Senior Staff Attorney Christopher F. Stoll, who is representing Young and his mother, Chelisa Grimes. “Rather than acknowledging its duty to protect students like Dynasty from harassment, IPS has said that if he returns, he will be sent to an alternative school for students who are unable to adjust to a traditional school setting. The problem here is not with Dynasty—it is with a school district whose response to repeated reports of severe bullying has been to blame the victim instead of addressing the problem.”

Young, who is 17 and gay, was expelled in the Spring 2012 semester of his 11th-grade year at Tech High School after enduring relentless anti-gay bullying throughout the school year. The bullying started immediately after he began attending the school, with some students telling teachers that they didn’t want to sit next to “that fag,” and others spitting on him and throwing rocks and bottles at him on his way home after school. Young and Grimes repeatedly reported the harassment to school administrators, but the school administrators did nothing effective to protect him, and the bullying continued. Administrators, including Principal Larry Yarrell, responded to the requests for help by blaming Young for being openly gay and gender non-conforming. In May, Yarrell told the Indianapolis Star: “If you wear female apparel, then kids are kids and they’re going to say whatever it is that they want to say.”

Increasingly fearful for her son’s safety, Grimes gave her son a self-protection flashlight, a small device that emits a loud noise, a light, and a weak electric charge. On April 16, six students surrounded Young to attack him. Young held the device in the air and activated it. The noise caused the aggressors to leave without assaulting him. Instead of locating the students who had threatened to attack Young, Tech administrators suspended Young and later expelled him for the remainder of the school year as well as the fall semester.

As a result of the expulsion, Young was unable to complete his spring semester at Tech High School and will need to make up any necessary credits to graduate. Young has recently enrolled in Indianapolis Metropolitan High School, a charter school not affiliated with IPS.

According to a 2010 study by Dr. Caitlin Ryan, gender non-conforming youth are at high risk of school harassment, which can have a lasting impact on their long term health and well being. The study found that gender non-conforming youth who experience high levels of school victimization suffer “dramatically elevated levels of suicide attempts, risk for HIV infection, STD diagnoses, and depression.” The study urges school districts to address this problem as “an educational and public health priority.”

Young added: “As excited as I am to be starting school, I am worried about all the kids who are still in IPS schools and experiencing the same type of daily verbal and physical attacks that I experienced with no help from school leaders. No one should be treated the way I was treated, and the district needs to do something to keep all students safe.”

Grimes added: “IPS still has not admitted that what they did to my son was wrong, and that’s not okay. Instead of protecting him, they told him he needs to change who he is so he isn’t targeted, and that is unacceptable. No one—especially a young student—should ever be told they must change who they are or ‘tone down’ the way they dress to avoid being hated and attacked. The district failed to protect my son, and there are still lots of young students in IPS schools who won’t feel safe until the district makes some real changes.”

Young and Grimes are represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Waples & Hanger.

Media Contact: NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office: 415.392.6257 x324 |EOlvera@NCLRights.org


Affordable Care Act Prohibits Gender Identity Discrimination

August 6, 2012

(Washington D.C., August 6, 2012)—The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has confirmed that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) protects against discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

The clarification, issued earlier this month, came in response to a letter submitted by NCLR and several other LGBT organizations. The letter from HHS confirmed that the anti-discrimination protections in section 1557 of the ACA, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, include discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

This announcement means people who face discrimination or are being denied access to any federally funded health service or program on the basis of gender identity may file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights at HHS. This protection applies to all healthcare facilities and programs that receive any funds from the federal government. This includes any hospitals, clinics, and mental health facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding.

Statement by NCLR Federal Policy Director Maya Rupert, Esq.:

“Transgender people face severe discrimination in healthcare settings and are often denied care completely. This announcement affirms that all patients in federally funded health care settings must be treated equally and may not be denied care simply because of who they are. We are grateful to HHS for clarifying this important policy and providing transgender people with the security of knowing they are included in the administration’s commitment to the health and well-being of all Americans.”

Media Contact: NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office: 415.392.6257 x324 |EOlvera@NCLRights.org


Protest Chick-Fil-A’s Hate with a Kiss! Or Two…

August 2, 2012

By Bethany Woolman
NCLR Communications Associate

This Friday, LGBT folks across the country will be gathering outside Chick-Fil-A restaurants and kissing up a storm as part of National Same Sex Kiss Day, aimed at protesting recent anti-LGBT comments by a Chick-fil-A leader and the outpouring of support from restaurant chain-goers.

And what better way to protest? Visibility is a powerful answer to oppression, and in order to show that our love is real and should be fully legal, we are proud to support National Same-Sex Kiss Day.

But this protest is about more than just equality for same-sex couples. Sure, the media has largely focused on Chick-Fil-A’s Dan Cathy’s statements opposing marriage equality and making other disparaging comments about our relationships. That alone is enough to make most of us drive right past Chick-fil-A establishments.

But it gets worse. Chick-fil-A is putting its money where its mouth is, and is not stopping at marriage equality. In 2010 alone, Chick-fil-A’s charitable arm, WinShape, gave $1,974,380 to anti-LGBT equality groups. Some of them, like the Family Research Council, support anti-LGBT activism and legislation in Uganda that has proven deadly. Others, like Exodus International and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, advocate for abusive “therapies” that try to make LGBT people straight through often dangerous practices.

Here at NCLR, we know that’s got to stop, which is why we’re co-sponsoring a California bill that would ban the attempts of unscrupulous “therapists” to change a minor’s sexual orientation. Sexual orientation change efforts pose critical health risks, including depression, shame, decreased self-esteem, social withdrawal, substance abuse, self-harm, and suicide.

It makes us sick that Chick-fil-A is supporting these and other policies that literally prove deadly for LGBT people. So for goodness sakes, go kiss someone tomorrow. Give someone a hug. Hold their hand. Anything to celebrate love, because it’s well worth fighting for.

Media Contact: NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office: 415.392.6257 x324 |EOlvera@NCLRights.org