Originally published on Advocate.com April 03 2004 12:00 AM ET
An openly lesbian teenager received a $30,000 settlement from New York City over her suspension for wearing a "Barbie Is a Lesbian" T-shirt to school, her attorney announced on Thursday. Natalie Young, now 15, wore the shirt to Middle School 210 on April 10, 2002, leading school officials to send her home for the day despite the absence of any official dress code. Young said the settlement should make life easier on other openly gay schoolchildren. "I think they should feel more comfortable about who they are," she said.
Young, currently attending John Adams High School, said she's found older students to be more accepting of her orientation than the administration at her Queens middle school. At M.S. 210, a teacher allegedly laughed at Young and denounced her T-shirt as "inappropriate" in front of other pupils. Young was pulled from class by the school principal and ordered to sit in an office until she changed the shirt. When she refused, she was suspended for the day. Young's lawyer, Ron Kuby, filed suit last June in federal court in Manhattan, charging that the incident was part of a series of discriminatory events.
Resolving the suit without litigation was "the appropriate decision," city lawyer Donna M. Kasbohm said. The city Department of Education agreed to establish a policy on student dress codes as part of the deal. The $30,000 was paid to Young for her pain and suffering, Kuby said. The settlement includes legal fees.