Student punished for saying "gay," ACLU says
December 03 2003 12:00 AM ET
A second-grader in Louisiana was scolded and forced to write "I will never use the word 'gay' in school again" after he told a classmate his mother is a lesbian, the American Civil Liberties Union alleges. According to the ACLU, which filed a complaint with the Lafayette Parish School Board on Monday, 7-year-old Marcus McLaurin was waiting in line to go to recess on November 11 at Ernest Gaullet Elementary School in Youngsville when classmates asked him about his mother and father.
McLaurin responded that he has two mothers because his mother is gay. When the other child asked for an explanation, McLaurin told him, "Gay is when a girl likes another girl," according to the complaint.
A teacher, overhearing the remark, scolded McLaurin, telling him "gay" is a "bad word" and sending him to the principal's office. The following week the school required the boy to attend a behavioral clinic at 6:45 a.m., where he was forced to repeatedly write "I will never use the word 'gay' in school again,"
the ACLU said. The child was also made to sign a "Student Behavior Contract," where he wrote, "I sed bad wurds."
A report sent home to McLaurin's mother, Sharon Huff, said her child "decided to explain to another child in his group that his mom is gay. He told the other child that gay is when a girl likes a girl. This kind of discussion is not acceptable in my room. I feel that parents should explain things of this nature to their own children in their own way." Lafayette Parish Schools superintendent James Easton said that the child wasn't disciplined for using the word "gay." "It was an inappropriate description of personal activity," Easton said. "I don't know exactly what was said, but that is what was reported to me." Easton said that the issue will be investigated seriously before the district responds to the ACLU's complaint. "It would surprise me if that accusation is accurate," he said. "A child can't be disciplined for using the term 'gay.' If one were, it would be a violation of their rights."
The ACLU claims that is exactly what happened. "At the ACLU we often deal with schools that mistreat gay children and children who have gay parents, but this is beyond the pale," said Ken Choe, an attorney for the ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. Joe Cook, executive director of the ACLU in Louisiana, said that children and gay and lesbian parents "have the same right as any other children to talk about their families."
Although no suit has been filed, the ACLU demanded that the school remove all mention of the case from McLaurin's disciplinary record and apologize to the boy and his mother. "I was concerned when the assistant principal called and told me my son had said a word so bad that he didn't want to repeat it over the phone," Huff said. "But that was nothing compared to the shock I felt when my little boy came home and told me that his teacher had told him his family is a dirty word."
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