News - March 1996

Jamie Nabozny wins GLSTN's "Pathfinder" award

The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Teachers' Network ("GLSTN") announced that it will award its third "Pathfinder" Award to Jamie Nabozny at its 2nd Annual Midwestern conference in Chicago on March 8-10. Nabozny is the first youth to receive the award, which goes to individuals who have created new paths for others to follow in the work against homophobia in schools.

Nabozny, who is represented by Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, is the plaintiff in the first federal appellate case challenging anti-gay violence in public schools.

"Jamie is the perfect recipient of the Pathfinder Award," said Kevin Jennings, Executive Director of GLSTN, "because his determination to pursue justice is an inspiration to youth everywhere, showing them that they need not tolerate homophobic harassment."

Nabozny suffered multiple physical assaults from seventh grade to eleventh grade in an Ashland, Wisconsin school district. Some of the physical violence he suffered was so severe as to require hospitalization and surgery. Students trapped him in hallways and bathrooms and beat, punched, kicked, and even urinated on him. Nabozny's parents stood by their gay son, constantly attempting to get the school to discipline the boys who abused him. However, school officials imposed no meaningful discipline on the assailants, and scoffed at Jamie, telling him that he had to expect such abuse because he is gay.

"Every child deserves a safe environment in which to get an education, and that education should emphasize teaching respect for others," said Patricia M. Logue, Managing Attorney at Lambda's Midwest Regional Office, and counsel to Nabozny.

"If I didn't have parents who showed they continued to love me after they found out I was gay, I don't think I would be alive today," said Nabozny, who attempted suicide three times because of the abuse. "I hope this case will mean other teens do not have to go through this terror year after year."

"Anti-gay violence is on the rise in schools," said David Buckel, Lambda Staff Attorney working on the case. "The states of Massachusetts and Washington, as well as the cities of Austin, Providence, and Wichita have responded to the brutalizing violence by documenting it and conducting hearings." Lambda, which took over representing Nabozny on appeal, will be presenting oral argument in the federal Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago on March 28.

A friend-of-the-court brief in support of Nabozny's appeal was filed by the National Association of School Psychologists, the National Association of Social Workers, the national office of Parents and Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, and Horizons Community Services of Chicago.

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