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Lawsuit settled over LGBTQ rights at McKinley High

A federal lawsuit over alleged discrimination against LGBTQ students at McKinley High School has been settled, the New York Civil Liberties Union said Tuesday.

The lawsuit, filed in May against the Buffalo school district, alleged that school officials wouldn't let a student form an after-school club for gay and lesbian students. Students also were warned against bringing same-sex dates to the prom, though the district reversed that position in the days after the suit was filed.

The suit alleged that McKinley Principal Crystal Boling-Barton was behind a pattern of discriminatory actions against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning students. Boling-Barton was placed on administrative leave in May.

Under the settlement, according to the NYCLU, the school district has agreed to:

  • Maintain a Gay-Straight Alliance, an after-school club for students. The district instructed staff at the high school to form a group days after the suit was filed in May.
  • Provide anti-discrimination training for staff and students.
  • Report LGBT discrimination and harassment complaints to the NYCLU for two years.
  • Prominently display around the school the district's anti-discrimination policy, including instructions on how to file a discrimination or harassment complaint.

Byshop Elliott, the student who filed the lawsuit, is now a senior at McKinley.

“I’m really looking forward to a new, more stable and supportive school environment where we can feel comfortable,” Elliott said in a news release issued by the NYCLU. “This just shows that, if you set your mind to it, all things are possible.”

Buffalo Public Schools spokeswoman Elena Cala issued the following statement in response to a request for comment from The Buffalo News:

"The contents of the NYCLU settlement are consistent with the district’s position and policies in regard to LGBTQ students," Cala wrote. "The district policies ensure that students of the LGBTQ community are included and accepted in all school activities throughout the district."

Boling-Barton remains on paid leave, Cala said.

Boling-Barton could not be reached for comment.

Officials for the school district and the NYCLU signed a settlement agreement dated Aug. 31.

The lawsuit alleged students were warned during announcements they were not allowed to bring same-sex dates to the prom and that couples tickets were reserved only for opposite-sex couples. It also was alleged that same-sex couples who danced together were known to be separated by the principal.

A Gay-Straight Alliance, which is student run, allows students to talk about issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity.

“We are pleased that LGBTQ students at McKinley High School will start school this week with new rules in place that should ensure fairness and equality, and we will be watching to make sure that framework is followed,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said in a news release.

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