News - April 1996

Argument presented in Nabozny case challenging anti-gay school violence

Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. was scheduled to present oral argument March 28th in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, in the first federal appeal challenging anti-gay violence in schools. Lambda's appeal on behalf of Jamie Nabozny seeks to hold his high school responsible for failing to stop a four-year campaign of relentless physical and verbal assaults on Nabozny.

"Violence against lesbian and gay teens is a serious problem that school officials cannot ignore," said Patricia M. Logue, Managing Attorney of Lambda's Midwest Regional Office, who will argue Nabozny's case. "With the federal government reporting that one-third of teen suicides are by lesbian and gay youth, schools must show zero tolerance for anti-gay attacks."

During the four-year ordeal in an Ashland, Wisconsin school district, students trapped Nabozny in hallways and bathrooms and assaulted him. During one assault, ten students surrounded Nabozny while another student repeatedly kicked him in the stomach, resulting in internal bleeding which required surgery.

Nabozny's parents repeatedly attempted to get the school to effectively discipline the boys who abused him. School officials scoffed, saying that "boys will be boys," and that their son had to expect such abuse because he is gay.

"I hope my case will help other gay teens to escape this terror," said Nabozny, who attempted suicide several times. Nabozny seeks the right to attend a graduation and get his diploma, because the abuse in his school drove him out at age 16, leaving him only with his GED.

"The issue of anti-gay violence against schoolchildren has moved to the front burner, with hearings in several states, including Kansas, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Texas," said David Buckel, a Lambda Staff Attorney also representing Nabozny. "We get so many calls from teens in trouble that we have drafted a booklet to help them fight against anti-gay abuse."

Lambda's appeal seeks reversal of an October 5, 1995 ruling by a federal judge in Wisconsin. Lambda, which took the case on appeal, is arguing that Nabozny's school denied his constitutional rights by failing to protect him because he is gay. Along with other groups, the National Association of School Psychologists filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Nabozny's appeal.

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