By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com December 17 2013 5:10 PM ET
The Southern Poverty Law Center has filed a federal lawsuit aiming to put a stop to pervasive anti-LGBT bullying allegedly coming from students and faculty at schools in Mississippi's Moss Point School District.
The SPLC announced its lawsuit today, after the advocacy group and school district failed to reach an agreement satisfactorily addressing the repeated anti-LGBT harassment suffered by Destin Holmes, a 17-year-old lesbian who has been subjected to anti-LGBT slurs and harassment since she was a student at Magnolia Junior High School.
The harassment, based on Holmes's sexual orientation and typically masculine style of dress, got so severe that Holmes left the school district to be homeschooled for a year, according to the SPLC. Holmes left Magnolia Junior High in March 2012 after the then-principal reportedly called her a "pathetic fool" and told her "I don't want a dyke in this school." At that point, SPLC demanded that the district take action to stop the harassment.
"We are disappointed that the district fails to see the serious harm its deliberate inaction causes its students," said Anjali Nair, SPLC staff attorney. "District officials who are entrusted with the safety and education of all students not only ignored, dismissed and even blamed victims for the abusive behavior of faculty and other students, they also participated in discriminatory acts."
When homeschooling became an unsustainable financial burden for Holmes and her family, she enrolled in the district's Moss Point High School, where, the lawsuit contends, she was again regularly harassed. At least one teacher refused to refer to Holmes by female pronouns, even after she repeatedly asked to be referenced by such.
"I deserve to go to school where students, and especially the teachers, don’t always call me names," Holmes said in the SPLC release announcing the lawsuit. "The district should have protected me and made sure I was learning, like the rest of the kids. Instead, the students, teachers and even principal, called me names. It shouldn’t have happened to me, and it shouldn’t happen to anyone else."
Watch Holmes describe just a fraction of the harassment she endured in the video below, courtesy of SPLC.