A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that California public school administrators who fail to stop antigay harassment of students may be violating the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection under the law. The U.S. circuit court of appeals found, in a 3-0 ruling, that simply having an antidiscrimination policy in place is not enough if school officials fail to enforce that policy.
The case involves a school in the Northern California town of Morgan Hill, where six students alleged that they had been harassed from 1991 to 1998. The students claim that Morgan Hill Unified School District officials failed to protect them, even after the students complained about the harassment. One male student says he was assaulted and had to be hospitalized for severely bruised ribs but that school officials punished only one of six students suspected in the attack.
Attorneys for the school district argue that a school's having an antidiscrimination policy in place should protect that school against such lawsuits.
The ruling affects school districts in California and eight other Western states.