A former student of the Kenosha Unified School District has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the school system. According to legal documents, Guadalupe Paredes says the bullying he experienced because he’s gay started in about third grade. He didn’t identify as gay then, but he also didn’t conform to stereotypical norms for little boys, according to his attorney, Rock Pledl with McNally Peterson.
“He just liked to dress in bright colors and didn’t like sports and he was picked on for that,” Pledl says.
Pledl says that for seven years, the bullying continued until Paredes dropped out of high school his junior year.
“He has had a lot of psychiatric treatment. He was suicidal, he had inpatient hospitalizations and his providers believe that a lot of that is related to the bullying at school,” Pledl says.
He says the Kenosha Unified School District, or KUSD, simply did not do enough to protect Paredes. "Kenosha Unified School District has a pretty good policy that says that incidents of harassment or bullying are supposed to be investigated and then there is to be a written report of the investigation. We got all of our client’s records from KUSD and there’s no record of any investigation into bullying,” Pledl says.
In a written statement, the Kenosha School District acknowledge informally receiving the complaint and that it is being reviewed. The district would not comment further.
Paul Castillo is a senior attorney with Lambda Legal, which represents LGBT people across the country or those living with HIV. He says that LGBTQ students face a lot of discrimination.
“LGBTQ students have continued to experience harassment and bullying at schools and a most recent survey from GLSEN with regard to students that identify as LGBTQ report that 85 percent of students have experienced some form of harassment,” Castillo says.
He says that since 1996 schools have been on notice. “That if they fail to take efforts to investigate complaints, to make a prompt, thorough and impartial review of the complaint and when substantiated, they must make efforts to stop the harassment, to prevent its recurrence and to make sure that the student has the ability to access educational programs and activities."
Castillo says there are a number of disciplinary acts that could have been levied against the students harassing Paredes.
“All schools have a code of conduct, which provides for sanctions, including discipline having the harassing student being transferred out to another school or removing them even from the classroom if they share certain classroom or activities,” he says.
Castillo says there are also steps school districts can take to be proactive and improve the climate for LGBTQ students such as surveys and spelling out in their policies that bullying and harassment of LGBTQ students will not be tolerated.