N.J. School: Parents of Straight Bullied Son Should ’Enroll Him in Sports’
A New Jersey school has been slammed with a federal lawsuit by parents who say their son was constantly physically assaulted and verbally harassed by classmates and even a school volunteer because they all thought he was gay, the New Civil Rights Movement reported.
The family, who is unnamed (most likely to protect the student’s identity), spoke to school officials a number of times about the daily bullying their child was allegedly enduring. The parents talked to administrators and two school district superintendents who told them that their son should "make new friends," "enroll in sports," or move out of the school district.
The family eventually took the officials’ advice, sold their home and moved out of the district.
"In Newark, plaintiffs D.O. and D.O. say they noticed problems with their child, C.O., who came home each day from Pine Lake Elementary School bruised crying and depressed," according to the Courthouse News Service.
The complaint says that the child "indicated to his parents that his classmates were bullying him both at school and after school due to the perception that C.O. was ’gay."
"On a daily basis during this time C.O. was called ’gay,’ ’fag’ and ’girl’ by his classmates. C.O. was also completely ostracized and shunned by his classmates and was forced to spend all time at school alone due to his classmates’ perception that C.O. was gay," the document says. "During the aforementioned time period, C.O., was asked by numerous classmates, often many times in a single day as to whether he was ’gay.’ The other students’ contempt for C.O. would often be displayed before large groups of his peers and he was constantly laughed at and demeaned due to his perceived sexual orientation."
After the parents witnessed the harassment occur from their own front lawn, they asked the school’s principal to handle the situation. But the bullying still continued, the parents claim. After phone calls and several meetings the principal "advised D.O. that he should consider taking C.O. to ’another school district.’"
The parents were "desperate to stop the harassment and abuse of their son at Pine Lakes, D.O. and D.O. met with Director of Elementary Schools for the District, [defendant] Maryrose Caulfield-Sloan," the complaint says.
"At this meeting D.O. and D.O. complained that their son was being subject to relentless harassment and bullying due to his perceived sexual orientation. In response to their concerns, Dr. Caulfield-Sloan advised D.O. and D.O. to enroll C.O. in sports in an area away from the district so that his classmates would not have the opportunity to harass and abuse him. Dr. Caulfield-Sloan also advised D.O. and D.O. that C.O. should attempt to ’make new friends.’"
The parents say that the assaults still continued and their son was physically assaulted on a school bus with a metal seatbelt.
New Jersey has some of the strictest laws in the country when it comes to school bullying. Anti-LGBT bullying is strictly prohibited in state schools. Officials are required to post and distribute their anti-bullying policies to all of their students.
In an incident that mirrors the New Jersey student’s situation, parents of an 18-year-old Florida student say bullying lead to their son’s attempted suicide.
Zachery Gray endured nonstop anti-gay bullying even though he was straight and had a girlfriend. He was called "fag," "queer" and a number of other homophobic slurs.
"He couldn’t walk down the hallways without somebody saying something toward him," said his father, Tony Gray.
In May of last year Gray, 17 at the time, tried to hang himself with a dog chain in a shed behind his home. Neighbors, his mother and paramedics were able to save him, however. Now the teen, who was supposed to graduate high school this year, suffers from brain damage, requires constant medical care, and can no longer walk or talk.
Like the parents from New Jersey cited above, Gray’s mother and father claim that the school did not do enough to prevent the bullying. An investigation into the situation found that students also made fun of Gray’s weight and a teacher (who no longer is with the school) did nothing to help him after Gray informed her that he was being bullied.