US: Mississippi school under fire for alleged bullying of LGBT students by staff

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A school in Mississippi has come under fire following claims that its LGBT students are frequently harassed by staff as well as other pupils, with the potential for a lawsuit to follow if no remedial action is taken.

Civil rights group the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) have made the allegations on behalf of LGBT students in Magnolia Junior High in Moss Point, Mississippi.

In particular, the SPLC were acting on behalf of lesbian student Destin Holmes, who wrote to them to report the bullying she faced at the school.

16-year-old Holmes said that in one lesson at the school the teacher divided the class into boys and girls, but told her to sit alone in the middle of the room.

“[The teacher] told me since she didn’t know what I was, I should be on a team of my own,” said Holmes at an SPLC press conference.

Holmes, now home-schooled, said she faced routine harassment from students and teachers. When she tried to report this to the school’s principal, she says she was told: “I don’t want a dyke in this school.”

The SPLC launched an investigation of the school after receiving Holmes’ letter, and said they had found widespread evidence of anti-LGBT bullying by staff and pupils. Some students reported that when they told school officials they were being bullied, they were told “Suck it up.”

The SPLC have now written to the school demanding action to end anti-LGBT bullying, and say they will file a federal lawsuit if no action is taken.

Attorney for the SPLC Sam Wolfe said: “Students face enough obstacles in school without also enduring violence and abuse for simply being different. They are entitled by law to attend school in an environment where they are not singled out and tormented because of their sexual orientation or gender nonconformity.”

Moss Point School District said in a statement on Friday: “We take allegations concerning bullying and harassment very seriously and have a protocol to address bullying in our schools.”

They added: “We are unable to discuss the allegations at this time due to it being an ongoing investigation.”

Yesterday a report revealed that schools in Colorado state are “hostile” environments for LGBT youth. Findings from the study found that LGBT students in the state face “high levels” of harassment based on their sexual orientation or gender expresson, and regularly hear anti-gay slurs from students and staff.