Wisconsin School District Ignored Antigay Bullying, Lawsuit Says

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A Wisconsin youth is suing the state's Kenosha Unified School District and five of its administrators, saying they failed to address antigay harassment and that he was even told one official was uncomfortable with hearing his complaints.

Guadalupe Paredes, 19, claims that the bullying from fellow students began in third grade, when he was 8 years old and before he knew he was gay, and followed him through middle and high school, Wisconsin Public Radio reports. The mistreatment became so unbearable that it led him drop out during his junior year of high school, the suit says.

The lawsuit, which was filed last week in federal court, alleges that Paredes was instructed not to complain about bullying to the assistant principal of his high school because  the administrator was "not comfortable with [Paredes's] kind." It also claims that another administrator told Paredes's mother that her son caused the harassment by being openly gay. 

Though any student could experience a district mismanaging complaints of bullying, "LGBT students have the additional problem that sometimes administrators just feel so uncomfortable with the student they’re working with, that they just don’t respond appropriately," Rock Pledl, one of the attorneys representing Paredes, told Wisconsin Public Radio.

The lawsuit alleges that Paredes was subjected to anti-LGBTQ slurs, physical violence, and, from one student, Facebook messages telling him to take his own life. It says the assistant principal, two principals, and two deans were made aware of the bullying, but it continued. While the district has an antibullying policy that requires administrators to investigate complaints and keep a written record of them, Pledl contends it failed to do so.

"We’ve got a stack of records from KUSD and there’s no evidence that there was ever any investigations into any of these complaints," said Pledl.

During 10th grade, Paredes was hospitalized for psychiatric treatment, and the next year he dropped out of school because the bullying was no longer endurable, according to the suit. That decision that has left Paredes worried about his future without a high school diploma, said Pledl.

A spokeswoman for the district told the Kenosha News this week that officials were reviewing the suit and had no further comment.

This is the second federal lawsuit Kenosha Unified School District has faced in regard to treatment of LGBTQ students.

Trans student Ash Whitaker sued the district in 2016 claiming it discriminated against him for “invasively monitoring his restroom use, referring to him by female pronouns in front of other students, initially denying him the right to run for junior prom king, and forcing him to room by himself during a week-long orchestra camp,” according to the Transgender Law Center. The school even ordered security guards to stop Whitaker from using the boys' restroom.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit last year ruled in Whitaker’s favor, upholding a lower court's injunction that stopped the district from barring the student from using his chosen restroom during the lawsuit. The school district settled the lawsuit by agreeing to pay $800,000 to Whitaker.

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