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

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

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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