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Louisiana school board won't apologize to lesbian mom

Louisiana school board won't apologize to lesbian mom

The Lafayette Parish school board in Louisiana has refused to apologize to a mother whose son was punished for telling another child that the mother is gay and insisted the child was disciplined for behavioral problems, not because he used the word gay. The incident attracted national attention after the mother, Sharon Huff, complained to the American Civil Liberties Union. Schools superintendent James Easton has maintained that the boy's teacher was not at fault, insisting the boy wasn't disciplined for saying gay. But that's the reason spelled out on a form Marcus McLaurin took home to his surprised mother in November. The ACLU demanded an apology, saying the child's free-speech rights had been violated, and asked that the incident be removed from record. On Thursday night, however, the school board wouldn't back down, insisting again by a vote of 5-3 that it was "never the intent or purpose" to discipline the child for having used the word gay. An ACLU lawyer from New York who attended the meeting, Ken Choe, expressed disappointment and suggested a lawsuit could be in the works. Choe said no new evidence had been produced to suggest that the boy had been punished for any reason other than the one spelled out on the form. "We're disappointed in the school board's action. We feel this is revisionist history," Choe said. "There was no documentation to support the school board's position--no evidence that that's the case." The school board members met in a private conference room for nearly four hours to debate the matter, but "nothing came out in any way that fundamentally contradicted the notion that Marcus was punished for what he said," Choe told reporters after attending much of the meeting. "That's not constitutional. Litigation is certainly an option." Along with all the national attention, the incident has aroused great curiosity in this mid-size city, the capital of Cajun country, and the meeting room here was crowded with citizens eager to hear the board's decision. Huff appeared on Good Morning, America last week, and newspapers from around the country have carried her story. According to the ACLU, Huff's son was standing in a line with other children when he was questioned about his parents. He explained that his mother is gay, and his teacher overheard him. Marcus was scolded in front of his classmates, sent to the principal's office, and barred from recess. And he was ordered to attend "behavior clinic." Thursday night, the school board upheld the teacher's decision. "To the extent that the student or mother misunderstood or was left with the impression that disciplinary action was taken for use of the word gay or any reference to sexual orientation is regrettable," board member Mike Hefner said in a statement. But neither he nor any other member produced documents other than those already made public, both of which indicate the boy was punished only for using the word gay. Some in the crowd Thursday wore white ribbons to indicate solidarity with Huff and her son. But not everybody was sympathetic. "I didn't send my children to school to find out about our sex lives," said Joseph Stutes. "I don't want my children exposed to that." One of the school board members who voted against the majority's position, Rickey Hardy, expressed anger, saying: "I personally want to apologize to the parent. I hope and pray that we can follow policy and procedures better than we have done. You just can't add evidence to an existing document."

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