INDIANAPOLIS — An agreement will resolve a lawsuit against the Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) filed by a former student who sued the district after officials failed to address relentless bullying and harassment he experienced at school because he is gay and does not conform to gender stereotypes.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Kirkland & Ellis LLP, and Waples & Hanger announced the agreement today.
After moving to Indianapolis and enrolling at Arsenal Tech for the 2011-12 school year, Dynasty Young endured eight months of harassment and bullying by students. He and his mother, Chelisa Grimes, repeatedly turned to school officials for help.
Instead of taking effective measures to address the bullying and harassment, school officials blamed Dynasty for being “too flamboyant.” Afraid for her son’s safety, Grimes made the difficult decision to give Dynasty a “self-protection flashlight,” a small device that emits light, a loud noise and an electric charge, to carry with him while at school.
On April 16, 2012, six students surrounded Dynasty to attack him. Afraid, Dynasty pulled the device out of his bag, held it in the air, and activated it, causing the aggressors to scatter without assaulting him. A district employee witnessed the incident, but instead of trying to locate the students who threatened to attack Dynasty, school officials suspended and later expelled Dynasty for trying to protect himself.
Rather than return to IPS schools, Dynasty enrolled at Indianapolis Metropolitan High School, a charter school, and filed a lawsuit against IPS challenging the expulsion and school administrators’ failure to address the harassment he experienced. Dynasty graduated from Metropolitan on June 28, 2013.
As part of the agreed judgment filed by the parties in the case, IPS will expunge the expulsion from Dynasty’s school records. Dynasty will also receive $65,000 as compensation for his experience at Arsenal Tech, which he intends to use for his education. The agreed judgment must be approved by the U.S. District Court in Indianapolis.
While the lawsuit was pending, the Indiana Legislature enacted new statewide anti-bullying legislation. The law requires schools across the state to create explicit anti-bullying plans, collect accurate data on incidents of bullying, and provide regular training for school personnel and students.
With the case behind him, Dynasty said he intends to shift his energy and focus into assisting school districts throughout the state to effectively comply with and implement this critical, life-saving law.
“I am glad that we were able to resolve this case and that IPS was willing to take the steps needed to help me get my life back on track,” Dynasty said.
“Things are starting to fall back into place for me. I am really looking forward to working with school districts to meet their obligations under Indiana’s new anti-bullying law and being a resource for students who have experienced bullying,” he said.
NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter explained the importance of the lawsuit.
“This case highlights how important it is for schools to protect students from harassment and bullying. The severe bullying that Dynasty endured at Arsenal Tech caused both psychological and educational harms that were compounded by the school’s insistence on blaming Dynasty for being ‘too flamboyant.’ Dynasty's courage in bringing this lawsuit will encourage school districts to take proactive steps to stop bullying and harassment and ensure that all students are safe and have an equal chance to succeed, ” Minter said.
Brent Ray, lead attorney on the case for Kirkland & Ellis LLP, said Dynasty was right to take a stand against the bullies.
“This settlement marks the end of two very difficult years for Dynasty. He has persevered and it is great to see his positive attitude and warm spirit again,” Ray said. “We know that Dynasty will continue to raise awareness about the serious problem of bullying in schools and look forward to seeing the great things he accomplishes.”