US Student to Sue School Over Gay Kiss Row

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A gay high school student filed suit against the Garden Grove Unified School District Wednesday, claiming she was suspended several times and forced to temporarily transfer schools because she refused to stop hugging and kissing her girlfriend on campus.

Charlene Nguon, a 17-year-old honor student, said Santiago High School Principal Ben Wolf discriminated against her and her girlfriend last school year because the couple was openly affectionate. Meanwhile, heterosexual couples who kissed went unpunished, she argued.

District spokesman Alan Trudell countered by saying, “The only thing I can say is that this district doesn’t engage in any discriminatory practices.” During a Los Angeles news conference organized by the American Civil Liberties Union, Nguon said, “I’m very stubborn and I don’t like it when people try to stomp on my rights.”

Nguon finished the last three months of the school year at Bolsa Grande High, but is being allowed to return to Santiago for her senior year. The first day of classes was September 8.

The Santa Ana resident and her girlfriend, Trang Nguyen, 16, allege that Wolf told them not to show affection toward each other after they began dating as juniors last year. Throughout the year, the two defied the order and continued to hug and kiss on campus despite suspensions ranging from one to five days, the suit says.

Eventually, Wolf demanded that one of the girls transfer to another school, Nguon says in the suit.

Nguon’s mother, Crystal Chhun, said Wednesday that she found out about her daughter’s sexual orientation when Wolf called her into his office last December. He told her that Nguon and her girlfriend were sitting with their arms around each other and talking with a heterosexual couple near the school’s parking lot.

“I don’t care about that,” Chhun said. “She is a good girl with a good report card.”

The displays “were very tame: a quick hug or kiss goodbye in the parking lot or at the end of the lunch hour,” said Elizabeth Brennan, a spokeswoman with the ACLU, which is representing Nguon.

Several parents contacted said they would prefer public displays of affection for all students, regardless of their sexual orientation, be discouraged at school.

The Gay/Straight Alliance Network, an umbrella organization that encompasses Gay-Straight Alliance Clubs at schools, joined the ACLU in the suit last week, claiming that school district policies regarding displays of affection are not applied equally to gay and heterosexual students.