A federal lawsuit over discrimination against LGBTQ students at McKinley High School has finally been resolved to the satisfaction of those who believe in equality and justice. The lawsuit, however, never should have been necessary in the first place.
The students merely wanted to form an after-school club. By first requesting and then going to court to demand their rights, they acted correctly. It remains a blotch on the principal’s record and that of the district that the situation had to go as far as it did. Because of the more mature behavior on the part of one particular young person, Byshop Elliott, current and future McKinley LGBTQ students will have the club as part of a support system.
Elliott, who is gay, has been supported by the New York Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit accusing the district of showing discrimination. Among its claims: School Principal Crystal Boling-Barton’s major role in a pattern of discriminatory actions against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning students. Boling-Barton was placed on administrative leave in May.
The lawsuit’s accusations are as striking as they are appalling: students were warned during announcements they were not allowed to bring same-sex dates to the prom. Moreover, couples tickets were reserved only for opposite-sex couples. The lawsuit also alleged that same-sex couples daring to dance together were known to have been separated by the principal.
Such actions are inexcusable – the district did reverse the prom rules after the lawsuit was filed – and reflect close-minded thinking that runs opposite to what an enlightened educational institution should represent.
Thanks to the initiative of an 18-year-old, a school district has agreed to initiatives that will create a more inviting atmosphere to a diverse student body. They include:
• Maintain a Gay-Straight Alliance after-school club for students. (District officials, in an overdue action, instructed staff at the high school to form a group. The mandate was delivered days after the suit was filed in May).
• Provide anti-discrimination training for staff and students.
• Report LGBT discrimination and harassment complaints to the New York Civil Liberties Union for two years.
• Prominently display the district’s anti-discrimination policy, including how to file a discrimination or harassment complaint.
Elliott, now a senior at McKinley, stood up for justice, and in doing so became a role model to many young people. He offers this wise advice: “This just shows that, if you set your mind to it, all things are possible.”