PHILADELPHIA -- Lambda Legal and the Indian River Central School District today announced the settlement of an anti-gay harassment lawsuit filed on behalf of Charles Pratt and his younger sister, Ashley Petranchuk.
In their agreement, Lambda Legal's clients and the school district have achieved a resolution that involves, among other things, the district hiring a consultant to advise and make recommendations concerning the district's anti-harassment training and policies.
"This is a great day for Charlie and Ashley who can put this behind them knowing that they helped ensure a positive school environment for other LGBT and ally students," said Thomas W. Ude Jr., Lambda Legal senior staff attorney. "The consultant, training, and other measures that the Indian River Central School District has agreed to take will help safeguard students against harassment for being gay, or for not conforming to stereotypes about masculinity or femininity."
District representatives added, "We are pleased to have worked with Charlie and Ashley, and their attorneys at Lambda Legal and Kirkland & Ellis, to ensure that the District’s programs to deter harassment and bullying are at the forefront of the developing knowledge in this area. By these efforts we are renewing our commitment to ensuring our children receive a first-rate education in a welcoming and safe environment."
On April 8, 2009, Lambda Legal and Kirkland & Ellis LLP filed a lawsuit representing former student Charlie Pratt and his sister, soon-to-be senior Ashley Petranchuk, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York. Charlie asserted that he was subjected to anti-gay harassment and that the school officials' responses did not satisfy federal and state law.
Charlie and Ashley also alleged that school officials violated their rights by denying their requests to form a gay-straight alliance at the high school. The school district and the other defendants denied those allegations, contending that they had responded appropriately to incidents of harassment of which they were aware, and that they had not denied requests to form a GSA.
As part of resolving the litigation, Charlie and Ashley and their attorneys worked with the district to develop a list of actions that will help the district in its mission to protect students from sexist, anti-gay, and other forms of harassment. More specifically, the district will:
• provide live, interactive staff training and student education concerning LGBT student harassment;
• retain a consultant in the upcoming school year to advise the district on training and education of faculty, staff, and students about responding to student harassment;
• gather information about harassment of students and share that information across schools as those students progress to other schools;
• administer anti-harassment surveys of students annually, with questions designed to ascertain "hot spots" where bullying or harassment is occurring;
• create clear procedures for students to request to start and continue extracurricular clubs, and, if a request is denied, provide a written reason for denying it;
• adopt peer leadership programs in its intermediate, middle, and high schools to detect, prevent, and address harassment; and
• ensure that district policies and procedures concerning harassment and student clubs are available on the district's and its schools' websites.