A former special education student in Lincoln, Neb., is suing Seward School District officials, alleging she became suicidal because of harassment by other students who thought she was gay. Jamie Davis, 20, suffers from attention-deficit disorder and mild mental retardation, among other things, according to the lawsuit. Soon after she began attending Seward High School in 1999, other students began harassing her because of "her boyish clothes and her masculine appearance." Using derisive language, the other students repeatedly asked her "whether she was a boy or a girl," ridiculed her and said "she wasn't normal and should be in a special school," according to the lawsuit. One student reportedly told Davis to kill herself. She also allegedly was threatened by another student with a handgun during a physical education class.
School officials and teachers said "there was nothing they could do because they hadn't seen or heard" the remarks or that she was "just imagining" the harassment, the lawsuit claims. "Under the barrage of sexual name calling, ridicule, and innuendo by the students, plaintiff's behavior and grades worsened...as her stress rapidly escalated," according to the suit, filed December 3 in U.S. district court by Nebraska Advocacy Services. School vice principal Dana Schaefer ultimately responded by having Davis escorted to a classroom each morning, where she sat until the bell rang. She also required her to sit with a teacher at lunch.
In the fall of 2001 the harassment escalated into physical violence when other students repeatedly shoved her into her metal locker, according to the lawsuit. Davis refused to return to school in December 2001 and enrolled in the district's after-hours program to work toward her GED on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Several students waited each night outside of the school and called her names and threatened to "run her out of town," the lawsuit alleges. The harassment impeded her ability to get an education and school officials denied her equal protection and due process. It asks for $250,000 in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages.