On September 29, 2000, a former high school student harassed for his perceived sexual orientation ("student plaintiff"), filed this federal lawsuit, pro se, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California against the Visalia Unified School District and school administrators and ...
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On September 29, 2000, a former high school student harassed for his perceived sexual orientation ("student plaintiff"), filed this federal lawsuit, pro se, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California against the Visalia Unified School District and school administrators and officials. On January 24, 2001, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint, now represented by both private counsel and the ACLU of Northern California, and joined by a second, organizational plaintiff, the Gay-Straight Alliance Network ("GSA Network"), a youth-led non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating intolerance and homophobia in schools, was added to the first amended complaint.
In the amended complaint, filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and California state law, the plaintiffs sought injunctive relief, a declaratory judgment, and damages for the creation of a hostile school environment in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection and Due Process Clause. Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that from 1996 to 2000, the defendants participated in and failed to take effective measures to remedy continuing and severe harassment that the student plaintiff experienced due to his sexual orientation. This harassment created a climate hostile to LGBT students, interfered with their enjoyment of educational opportunities, and caused them physical and emotional harms.
On March 28, 2001, the Court (Senior Judge Oliver W. Wanger) granted the defendants' request for judicial notice of certified copies of official records showing registration of school district with public agencies, and denied the defendants' motion to dismiss, motion for more definite statement, motion to strike (in part), motion for summary judgment/summary adjudication. The Court found that the GSA Network had standing to bring their claims, but struck GSA Network's prayer for punitive damages against the District. Gay-Straight Alliance Network v. Visalia Unified Sch. Dist., 262 F. Supp. 2d 1088, 1112 (E.D. Cal. 2001).
However, on April 11, 2001, the Court corrected its March 28 opinion and granted the defendants' motion to dismiss the student plaintiff's request for punitive damages against the School District, finding the School District immune from exposure to punitive damages from state law claims.
The parties then settled the case: On August 15, 2002, the Court entered a consent decree and granted the parties' stipulation of dismissal, dismissing the case with prejudice. The decree required the defendants to provide for a mandatory staff training program, revise its policies, select compliance coordinators, develop systems for reporting harassment and discrimination, allow students to form a gay-straight alliance, and create a community advisory group. It was scheduled to last for six months. The docket does not indicate any subsequent substantive activity. Stella Cernak - 03/30/2014