Suit filed on gay student's behalf against district
Thursday, April 10, 2003
LITTLE ROCK -- A junior high school student and his parents have sued the school district and four teachers, alleging they violated the boy's rights by refusing to let him talk to classmates about being gay.
The lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of 14-year-old Thomas McLaughlin, names the Pulaski County Special School District and teachers and administrators at Jacksonville Junior High.
The ninth-grader says teachers told his parents that he was gay, preached to him, forced him to read the Bible and disciplined him for talking about his sexual orientation.
"We tried to work with the district to reach a settlement that would protect Thomas McLaughlin's constitutional rights and allow him to be open about his sexual orientation," said James Esseks, an ACLU lawyer.
The school district said last month in a letter to the ACLU that McLaughlin's discussions outside of class time disrupted the learning process and that it was appropriate to discipline him.
School district attorney Jay Bequette declined comment on the suit.
McLaughlin said in an interview Tuesday that he wants himself and other gay students to be able to go to school without having to lie about their sexuality.
"I don't want to be singled out because I'm gay," McLaughlin said.