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GLSEN Criticizes School For Allegedly Failing To Protect Gay Student

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) sharply criticized San Marin High School officials in Novato, California on February 16, for allegedly failing to protect an openly gay high school student from repeated harassment and physical abuse. The harassment culminated in a vicious physical attack last Friday, in which "fag" was carved into the student's chest and forearm.

According to newspaper accounts, San Marin senior Adam Colton has been subject to ongoing verbal harassment at school, has had personal property vandalized on school grounds, and recently decided to enter an off-campus independent study program because he felt unsafe at school. GLSEN urges school officials around the country to step up efforts to provide safe and affirming school environments for all students, regardless of sexual orientation.

"In addition to the brutal attack, the fact that this student felt the need to partake in independent study at home because he felt unsafe at school should outrage parents everywhere," said GLSEN Communications Director Jim Anderson. "Parents want assurance that when they send their kids off to school in the morning, they'll be returned in the same physical condition that afternoon. That clearly isn't the case when we're talking about gay youth."

According to newspaper accounts, Adam Colton, who came out at San Marin High School last September and went on to form a Gay/Straight Alliance club, awoke in the hospital last Friday with memory loss, substantial bruising and the word "fag" carved into his forearm and chest. Police suspect that the attack was bias-motivated and more than likely occurred on school campus. Anderson notes that if school officials consistently failed to provide a safe learning environment for the student, they could be found liable by a court of law. He points to a 1996 decision in which Jamie Nabozny of Ashland, Wis., was awarded nearly $1 million after a federal jury found school district officials liable for failing to protect him from anti-gay abuse ranging from verbal to physical harassment.

"Our schools simply fail to recognize and respond to the consistent harassment directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) youth," Anderson continued. "It's much easier to look at these incidents as isolated, to pretend 'it's not happening in our school', than it is to acknowledge the fact that LGBT students face varying degrees of emotional, verbal and physical harassment all the time, in school communities everywhere. How many more youth have to be attacked before we find the will to act?"

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