Central Valley School District Settles Free Speech Lawsuit Over LGBTQ Student Yearbook Quotes

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MADERA — Today, the ACLU Foundation of Northern California reached a settlement agreement with Chawanakee Unified School District that calls for new school policies to protect LGBTQ students.

The ACLU initially filed suit in March on behalf of two then-Minarets High School seniors, Steven Madrid and Mikayla Garaffa. Their pro-LGBTQ yearbook quotes were removed from their senior yearbook by an adult adviser who wrongly deemed them “political” and “sexual” in nature.

Under the settlement agreement, the District agreed to ensure that teachers are trained in the current law requiring schools to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for LGBTQ students. The District also agreed to create an anonymous online complaint system so students can report campus bullying and harassment, train all District staff about the free speech rights of students, review relevant policies to ensure their compliance with state law banning discrimination against LGBTQ students, and add language to the parent-teacher handbook affirming students’ rights to be free from discrimination in school-sponsored activities.

“We are happy that we were able to reach an agreement with the District that reflects the need to reexamine the needs of LGBTQ students in the District and tangible next steps to ensure they get the support needed by staff,” said Abre’ Conner, staff attorney with the ACLU Foundation of Northern California. “Our clients have been zealous advocates since first notifying the District of their rights to include the yearbook quotes and reaching this settlement is a testament that schools must listen to students and parents when they speak up regarding fair treatment in schools.”


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