Graham joins GLAA in urging student anti-harassment policyJIM GRAHAM
COUNCILMEMBER, WARD ONE
COUNCIL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
441 4TH STREET, N.W., SUITE 718
Washington, D.C. 20001
September 8, 1999
Dr. Arlene Ackerman
DC Public Schools
825 North Capitol Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002
Re: Implementation of Public School Policy Against Student Harassment
Dear Dr. Ackerman:
I am in receipt of a recent request by the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA) that I support their proposal for the DC Public Schools to institute a policy prohibiting student harassment against our gay and lesbian students. I strongly endorse this proposal. Therefore, it is my recommendation to you, that the DC Public Schools begin implementation of a policy against student harassment in order to protect our gay and lesbian students from the mistreatment and ridicule that they oftentimes experience from their peers, because of their sexual orientation. To my dismay, and based upon the information provided to me, the DC Public School System does not have a formal policy that forbids student-on-student harassment.
The United States Supreme Court ruled last May, that "schools that willfully ignore sexual harassment of one student by another can be held liable for violating federal civil rights law, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972." Writing for the majority in Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said, "lawsuits may be filed against school officials who knowingly and deliberately ignore student-on-student harassment." With this in mind, I would hope that our DC Public School System would initiate every possible and responsible effort to protect gay and lesbian students from harsh, cruel, and unfair treatment, and that such students who cause harm, (whether physical or mental), should be penalized and/or prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
I further believe that enactment of an anti-harassment policy would both reduce the potential for student-on-student harassment, as well as provide the DC Public School System with a record of concern and active involvement in the reduction or elimination of harassment. We certainly do not want to see gay and lesbian students being harassed in our public schools, nor do we want the District government to be hit with an expensive lawsuit. This is why I strongly urge that the DC Public School System begin immediately, the implementation of a comprehensive anti-harassment policy.
I would appreciate your acknowledgment of what I believe is a very important recommendation that deserves careful consideration and action by the DC Public School System.
With every good wish,
Councilmember, Ward One
cc: Rick Rosendall
The Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance