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News - December 1996

GLSTN congratulates Nabozny

The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Teachers Network (GLSTN) Nov. 20 congratulated Jamie Nabozny and Lambda Legal Defense, plaintiff and counsel, on their victory in Nabozny v. Podelsny et al, the first-ever federal case on anti-gay violence in schools. A Wisconsin jury found Nabozny's Ashland, Wisconsin school system and its administrators guilty of failing to protect Nabozny from harassment, establishing a first-ever precedent on the rights of lesbian and gay students in K-12 schools. In its settlement, the school paid close to a million dollars to Nabozny in medical costs and punitive damages.

"Jamie's victory is an incredible moment in our history," said Kevin Jennings, GLSTN's Executive Director and a former high school history teacher. "Basically, this is the most important court ruling on education since Brown v. the Board of Education in 1954, when racial segregation was outlawed," said Jennings. "The courts have sent a similar message with this verdict. They've said that students who are lesbian or gay are entitled to equal protection and equal opportunity from their schools." Jennings added, "Now, students and teachers fighting for equity will have the courts on their side. Things will quite literally never be the same."

Jennings lauded Nabozny and Lambda for their leadership. "Jamie's courage, coupled with the legal brilliance of the Lambda team, have made history," said Jennings. "These are folks who will be remembered forever for their contribution to bettering the lives of lesbian and gay young people." Jennings added that GLSTN's network of over forty chapters will be hard at work in coming months to make sure the Nabozny ruling has teeth. "In the end, these kinds of rulings will only have an impact if there is someone on the local level whois holding their schools accountable for their behavior, just as Jamie and Lambda held Ashland accountable," said Jennings. "That's our plan for the next phase: to let school officials know that we're watching, and we'll be making sure they live up to their legal responsibilities to protect all students."


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