A 15-year-old gay Mohawk, NY high school student and his father, along with the New York Civil Liberties Union, have sued the teen's high school after it refused to address repeated harassment and bullying from classmates. In what is described as "a novel interpretation of the Title IX statute, which prohibits discrimination against students on the basis of gender", NPR reports the Obama Administration has made a surprise intervention:
Long before Jacob [Sullivan] came out of the closet at age 14, he was harassed for being effeminate. According to court papers, kids threw food at him and told him to get a sex change. One student pulled out a knife and threatened to string Jacob up the flagpole. A teacher allegedly told Jacob to "hate himself every day until he changed." Over two years, Sullivan went to his son's school three or four times a week to talk with the principal. According to court papers, officials did nothing. The harassment became so bad that Jacob changed school districts. With the help of the New York Civil Liberties Union, Sullivan eventually sued ...
Now the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division has asked a judge for permission to intervene on Jacob's behalf. "We haven't seen this kind of involvement in quite some time," says Hayley Gorenberg of Lambda Legal, a national gay rights legal organization. "It's a long time coming, and we really need it." Republicans who worked in the Civil Rights Division under previous administrations agree that this is a case conservatives generally would not make.
The Justice Department's argument hinges on a broad reading of the law known as Title IX. Title IX is typically used to protect students from gender discrimination, but in this case, Obama administration lawyers argue that the law also covers discrimination based on gender stereotypes — that is to say, boys who are beaten up for being effeminate.
This is apparently the first time in almost a decade that Justice has intervened in a gay rights lawsuit..
LGBT youth advocates are hopeful the DoJ intervention will clarify some of Title IX's more vague areas on gender expression and sexual orientation.