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Lesbian Teen Gets $30,000 in School Harassment Case

April 02, 2004|From Newsday

NEW YORK — A teenager suspended from school for wearing a T-shirt that said "Barbie is a Lesbian" was awarded $30,000 in a settlement with the city, her lawyer announced Thursday.

Natalie Young, 15, won the settlement for emotional pain and suffering stemming from an incident on April 10, 2002, at a middle school in Queens.

Natalie, a lesbian, wore the shirt that day and was taken out of class by the school's principal because she refused to change it.

She was suspended for the day and threatened with further action if she wore the shirt again.

"There was nothing wrong with it," Natalie recalled Thursday. "I shouldn't have to change because somebody thinks there's something wrong with it."

The harassment went beyond the T-shirt, said Natalie's lawyer, Ronald Kuby. She had worn rainbow-colored beads as a symbol of gay pride and was forced to remove them.

"It was a culmination of a lot of harassment at that school because of her sexual orientation," Kuby said at a news conference.

The city's Department of Education did not have a dress code policy before the lawsuit, Kuby added.

As part of the settlement, New York City public schools now will allow students to wear clothes with political slogans.

"Students in the nation's largest school district will now have the 1st Amendment right to wear T-shirts and armbands that express controversial political views," Kuby said.

About 1.1 million students attend New York City public schools.

"We believe that resolving this suit without protracted litigation is the appropriate decision. The settlement was inclusive of attorney's fees," said Donna M. Kasbohm, the city's assistant corporation counsel.

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