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When kids at Maria Carrillo High School in Santa Rosa, Calif., started teasing Mormon student Rebekah Rice about her religion, the freshman responded, "That's so gay." Rice was then sent to the principal's office by a teacher--who was also adviser to the school's gay-straight alliance--and the incident was noted in her file.
Now the city's school district is fighting a lawsuit that claims Rice was discriminated against and harassed not only for being Mormon but because her parents had protested the school's "Day of Dialogue," which in part encouraged discussion of gay issues. The Rices also claim Rebekah was threatened by a lesbian student during an anti-hate crimes rally.
The lawsuit, filed by Rebekah's parents in 2003, went to a nonjury trial in February. The suit seeks to remove the "That's so gay" notation from Rebekah's school record and also intends to notify all parents that the R-rated film Saving Private Ryan was shown in school without prior parental permission.
The Rices are members of the conservative group Eagle Forum. Orlean Koehle, president of the California Eagle Forum and a substitute teacher in Santa Rosa, stated in court that the Rices' lawsuit was "partially to counter the pro-gay agenda in public schools."
Rebekah, now 18, testified in court that to her "That's so gay" means, "That's so stupid, that's so silly, that's so dumb."
Many don't think "That's so gay" is so innocuous. Kevin Jennings, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, tells The Advocate, "It's not about this one student--it's about a pervasive and serious problem that far too few schools are addressing."
A judge is expected to rule by mid July.
"That's so gay"