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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 20 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 51
Lesbian student sues Mississippi school district for harassment
Section One
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Lesbian student sues Mississippi school district for harassment

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) filed a federal lawsuit December 17 on behalf of a Lesbian student who says she was harassed by her Mississippi school.

Destin Holmes, says that as a student at Magnolia Junior High School in the Moss Point, Mississippi, school district, she and other LGBT students were regularly targeted by teachers as well as other students.

SPLC attorney Sam Wolfe said a student-requested investigation revealed a pervasive anti-LGBT environment in the Moss Point school district that is propagated by students, teachers, and even administrators.

'Students face enough obstacles in school without also enduring violence and abuse for simply being different,' Wolfe said. '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.'

As an example, Holmes recounted an episode in which her math teacher divided the class into two teams - boys vs. girls - but ordered Holmes to sit alone in the middle.

'She told me since she didn't know what I was, I should be on a team of my own,' Holmes said during a press conference organized by SPLC.

Holmes, who attended the junior high for one semester during the 2011-2012 school year, said she was forced to leave the school after being incessantly tormented by peers and faculty members.

She sought help from her principal, she said, but the principal told her, 'I don't want a dyke in this school.' For the first three days of school, she was repeatedly referred to as 'he' by teachers even though she told them she was a 'she.'

Holmes said teachers and students called her 'it,' 'queer,' 'freak,' 'alien,' 'dyke' and 'he-she,' and teachers denied her access to the girls' restroom.

'They don't even know me,' Holmes, who is now homeschooled, said during the press conference.

Holmes said the bullying made her withdraw and even feign sickness to avoid school.

'I loved being with friends and going to school before I was being bullied,' she said. 'This isn't right, and it isn't fair.'

Jennifer Holmes, Destin's grandmother, said the family tried to make the school address the harassment, but the administrators 'showed no sympathy' and the school board ignored phone calls and written requests for meetings.

'It's frustrating to watch a child suffer and not be able to help her,' the grandmother said, noting Destin was 'living a nightmare.'

Several LGBT students told the SPLC that school administrators told them to simply 'suck it up' after they reported bullying.

In March, SPLC sent the school district a demand letter asking for relief from harassment. The district should immediately develop a plan to correct the issue, the letter said, or face a federal lawsuit.

In response to the letter, the district said it would conduct an investigation, but otherwise would have no comment.

SPLC has filed a number of successful suits against hate groups, notably one, which bankrupted the Aryan Nations organization and led to the seizure of their compound in Hayden Lake, Idaho. The group was formed in 1971 to provide legal assistance to victims of the Ku Klux Klan.

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