$900,000 Settlement in Gay Student's Discrimination Suit
Nov. 20, 1996
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (AP) _ A gay man who was beaten and tormented in school for years won a $900,000 out-of-court settlement today, settling the first federal trial against a school district for not protecting gay students.
Jamie Nabozny, now 21, sued the Ashland School District in northern Wisconsin and school officials on the grounds they violated his rights by failing to protect him from years of sexual harassment.
The agreement came a day after a federal court jury found that three school administrators violated his rights, although it found the district as a whole was not guilty of discrimination.
The jury had been scheduled to begin considering damages today, before the settlement was announced by Peg Byron, public education director for the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, and Timothy Yanacheck, an attorney who defended the district on behalf of Wausau Insurance.
``I feel like I have justice and that this means justice for all the other kids out there who aren't sure if they should stay in school or stay alive,'' Nabozny said in a statement.
``I can now go on with my life and have the normal educational experience that I waited a long time for.''
Homosexuals have paid a high price in abuse, said Lambda attorney Patricia Logue.
``Now the tables have turned, and it is prejudice that has proved so costly,'' she said.
Nabozny said the abuse by other students ranged from name-calling to being shoved, beaten, spat upon and even having his head pushed in a urinal and being urinated upon.
He testified during the two-day trial that he was kicked in the stomach so many times he later required surgery.
He said the harassment occurred from the time he entered Ashland Middle School in 1988 until he dropped out of Ashland High School as a junior in 1993. He later earned an equivalency diploma.
The jury ruled against Ashland Middle School Principal Mary Podlesny and two administrators at Ashland High School, Principal William Davis and Assistant Principal Thomas Blauert.
The case went to trial after the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled last summer that Nabozny did have enough evidence to take the district to court, overturning a lower court decision.
Lambda is a New York City-based civil rights organization that represents gays, lesbians and people with HIV.