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Lesbian Student Sues N.J. School After Fleeing For Safety

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

Posted: September 7, 2005 1:00 pm ET

(Holmdel, New Jersey) An 18 year old girl who says she was verbally and physically attacked for two and a half years in Holmdel High School filed a lawsuit on Wednesday in the Superior Court of New Jersey in Monmouth County.

At a news conference in Holmdel Nancy Wadington said she attended Holmdel High until the middle of eleventh grade when she had to leave the school to protect her safety.

For nearly three years, she said, other students had verbally harassed her, threw bottles and other objects at her, pushed her down a flight of stairs, and stole and destroyed her books and backpacks -- on one occasion urinating inside her backpack.

Though both Nancy and her mother approached the school's administration seeking assistance, they failed to stop the harassment the suit alleges.

"It is an atrocity that school officials would ignore laws in New Jersey which are touted as being the most comprehensive nondiscrimination laws on the books," said Alphonso David, Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal and an attorney on the case.

"Holmdel High School failed horribly in its duty to protect Nancy Wadington and there is no excuse for it. Hopefully this lawsuit serves as a further wake-up call to schools that they cannot ignore antigay harassment and abuse."

Based on the fears for her safety, David told reporters, Nancy stopped using the restrooms at school, forcing herself to go to the bathroom only before and after school, despite abdominal pain. She also stopped using the school's locker rooms, wearing her gym clothes to and from school. She further avoided the dangerous hallways between classes and instead often walked outside the building, even in the cold and rain, to find an entry door closest to her next class.

The lawsuit is based on the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination that prohibits sexual orientation discrimination in all places of public accommodation including schools.

"For me, going to school was about being humiliated. It was not about getting an education," the teen said.

"It was my school's responsibility to provide me with a safe learning environment, but instead they effectively ignored the harassment I was experiencing and left me to defend myself. I am not the only person to have unnecessarily been harassed because of their sexual orientation and I am here to say that we cannot just be silenced and swept under the rug."

Lambda Legal is joined on the case by a team of lawyers including Robert Del Tufo, a former Attorney General of New Jersey, who was in office when the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination was amended in 1993 to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

©365Gay.com 2005

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