Rights group challenges New York schools over gay students

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In an effort to persuade the Ithaca City School District to abandon its stance that the New York Human Rights Law does not apply to public schools, New York-based Lambda Legal today sent school board members a letter critiquing the board’s argument and explaining the potential harm the board’s position could cause.

“The human rights law is the only effective law that expressly addresses anti-gay discrimination in New York schools,” Hayley Gorenberg, deputy legal director at Lambda Legal, said in a release. “Attacking it jeopardises LGBT students.”

In response to charges of racial discrimination, the Ithaca City School District defended itself by challenging the New York Human Rights Law, stating that the law should be interpreted to exclude public school students from its protections.

In the case that raised the issue, a young African-American girl alleged relentless harassment by a group of white students while riding the public school bus to DeWitt Middle School.

Her mother, Amelia Kearney, said she reported the incidents but was given little to no help.

She claims that the district failed to protect her daughter from racial harassment.

In defence against this claim, the Ithaca City School District not only contested the specific facts, but argued that the human rights law does not apply to public schools.

When a state Supreme Court judge ruled in early September that the law applied to schools, the school district launched an appeal contesting that holding.

Its decision to challenge the New York Human Rights Law has garnered harsh criticism from community members and civil rights organisations.

At a meeting tomorrow the Board of Education will discuss a proposal to discontinue its challenge to the applicability of the New York Human Rights Law.

Chrys Hudson © 2007 GayWired.com; All Rights Reserved.