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Lesbian Teen Sues District for Bias

A question about her sexual orientation led to expulsion from gym class, taunts and insults.

December 18, 2002|Peter Y. Hong | Times Staff Writer

Ashly, a stocky girl who wears her short brown hair in spikes, is now in ninth grade at a high school in Beaumont. The family moved to the neighboring community this summer for reasons that had nothing to do with the school incident, they said.

Amelia Massey said Banning school district officials and the staff at Coombs Middle School did little to help her daughter as she was being taunted. The Masseys believe the initial locker room incident might have blown over if not for Gill's sharp reaction.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday December 19, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 10 inches; 388 words Type of Material: Correction
Teenager's bias suit -- An article in Wednesday's California section about a lesbian teenager being excluded from a physical education class in Banning Unified School District misspelled the name of Martha Matthews, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, as Marcia.

"I asked if there was any misconduct or anything inappropriate. The teacher said, 'No.' So I said, 'I don't know what to tell you,' " the mother said.

Massey, who is a registered nurse, said Gill then told her that other girls were simply uncomfortable having Ashly in the locker room.

"It wouldn't have been a big deal," Massey said. "They would have found something bigger and better to talk about."

Ashly said her problems only were exacerbated when other students saw her sitting in the office day after day. "I felt alienated," she said. "People would point and laugh at me."

Massey said her daughter initially did not talk to her about the incident, but she sensed that Ashly was troubled.

Soon after the incident, Ashly had to shorten her schedule because of a medical treatment and so dropped the gym class for the remainder of the year.

Ashly and her mother said that did not stop the taunts. The mother called the National Center for Lesbian Rights in San Francisco, and a lawyer there agreed to take on the case. The group joined with the ACLU of Southern California to file the lawsuit.

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Times staff writers Erika Hayasaki and Mitchell Landsberg contributed to this report.

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