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School Settles Lawsuit After Deleting Pro-LGBTQ Quotes From Yearbook

Mikayla Garaffa and Steven Madrid
Students Mikayla Garaffa and Steven Madrid

The Chawanakee Unified School District in central California agreed to assure compliance with state law requiring an LGBTQ-affirming environment.

The American Civil Liberties Union has reached a settlement agreement with a California school district in a lawsuit over the removal of students' pro-LGBTQ quotes for their high school yearbook.

The ACLU Foundation of Northern California filed suit in March against Chawanakee Unified School District, in the state's central valley, on behalf of two students who were then seniors at Minarets High School, Steven Madrid and Mikayla Garaffa. An adult adviser had removed their quotes from the yearbook, deeming them "political" and "sexual" in nature -- wrongly so, according to the ACLU.

Under the settlement agreement, reached Tuesday, the district "agreed to ensure that teachers are trained in the current law requiring schools to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for LGBTQ students," says a press release from the ACLU Foundation of Northern California. The district also agreed to create an anonymous online complaint system for students to use in reporting on-campus bullying and harassment; train all district staff about students' free speech rights; review relevant policies to assure they comply with state law banning discrimination against LGBTQ students; and add language to the parent-teacher handbook affirming students' rights to be free from discrimination in school-sponsored activities.

"We are happy that we were able to reach an agreement with the district that reflects the need to reexamine the needs of LGBTQ students in the district and tangible next steps to ensure they get the support needed by staff," said Abre' Conner, staff attorney with the ACLU Foundation of Northern California, in the press release. "Our clients have been zealous advocates since first notifying the district of their rights to include the yearbook quotes and reaching this settlement is a testament that schools must listen to students and parents when they speak up regarding fair treatment in schools."

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