Ending Anti-Gay Harassment on Campus

By: ACLU of Northern California

"I can't remember a day at school when I wasn't called a faggot or gay," said Robby Martinazzi. Throughout elementary and middle school, Robby had been the target of taunts, physical abuse, and name-calling based on his sexual orientation. After years of asking officials at his Lake County school district to intervene, Robby's parents called the ACLU of Northern California.

The result was a comprehensive settlement establishing steps the district will take to protect students from anti-gay harassment and discrimination.

The ACLU of Northern California sought this settlement, reached without a lawsuit with the Upper Lake Union Elementary School District, in light of federal and state laws that allow for school administrators to be held liable if they fail to take adequate measures to remedy anti-LGBT harassment and discrimination.

Taunts Culminate in Violence

The years of harassment culminated in Robby being attacked by a group of boys in the school locker room after gym class. The boys knocked Robby to the ground and kicked him in the stomach, head, and sides while screaming "fag" and "queer" at him. Believing that the district was not going to independently take the appropriate steps to respond and protect Robby, his parents contacted the ACLU of Northern California.

The settlement agreement contains a series of steps the district will take to create a safe learning environment for all students and to educate students and staff about preventing harassment and discrimination at school.

Additionally, at each staff meeting, administrators will inquire about incidents of harassment and review the steps teachers and staff should take to intervene.

The district has also adopted clear policies prohibiting harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, as required by California law.

Refusing to Be a Victim

"I really want my son to grow up without a victim mentality," said Tracy Martinazzi, Robby's mom, explaining part of the reason her family decided to take on the district rather than just walk away. "I want him to be able to say I am not a victim. Hopefully, this will be a positive move in that direction."

For Robby, the settlement appears to have been empowering.

"If there's one thing I've learned through this experience, it's that everyone has the right to get an education without the fear of harassment or attack," he said. "I hope that because of the policy changes we fought for, other kids won't have to go through what I went through."

Robby added that he's proud that he "had the chance to help make my school a safer place for LGBT kids."