N.J. student's harassment case may go to trial

BY admin

May 10 2007 12:00 AM ET

A gay former
New Jersey high school student's harassment
complaint may go to trial now that state officials have
found there is sufficient evidence to allow for such a
move, the Asbury Park Press reports.

The state
Division on Civil Rights has found "probable cause" for
the complaint, Atty. Gen. Stuart Radner said Tuesday,
according to the paper. Another key development in the
case came earlier this year, when the New Jersey
supreme court ruled that the state's
antidiscrimination and antiharassment laws apply to
students as well as to employees.

The former
student, Daniel Jacobson, now 19, says the Jackson Township
School District was inadequately responsive to his ongoing
complaints of being harassed regularly from 2003
and 2006. He attended Jackson Memorial High School
from September 2002 through June 2006.

He said he first
notified school officials of the harassment in 2003,
saying fellow students were making fun of him for
being gay and for being an immigrant from Honduras.
Administrators issued warnings and required three
students to attend sensitivity training, but the Division
of Civil Rights also cited failings in the district's
response.

Jacobson
said two students shouted an antigay slur at him in
front of a guidance counselor, who took no action. He
requested a class transfer in November 2005 after a
classmate was verbally abusive. In May 2006 he alerted
school authorities after receiving a death threat from
four other students.

School officials
plan to challenge the state's findings, said district
spokeswoman Allison Erwin. Erwin claims that state
investigators examined documents but never interviewed
district employees involved in the case. Division on
Civil Rights director J. Frank Vespa-Papaleo said the agency
would make a "last-ditch effort" to resolve the matter
without a trial, but otherwise it will go to trial,
probably before the end of the year.

A ruling against
the school district would result in a fine of up to
$10,000, and it also could be forced to compensate Jacobson,
state officials said. (The Advocate)

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