DOJ and Department of Ed confirm protection for gender non-conforming students

On June 30, the United States Departments of Education and Justice
reached a settlement with the Tehachapi Unified School District
of Tehachapi, California. An investigation by the Justice
Department revealed ongoing and pervasive bullying that ultimately
led Seth Walsh to die by suicide at the age of 13.   Seth had been
the target of severe and persistent bullying, harassment, and
physical intimidation by his peers based on his non-conformity with
typical gender norms.

After Seth’s death in September 2010, the resulting investigation
revealed that Seth had been the target of harassment for over 2
years and that despite numerous complaints, the school district had
neglected to do anything about the terrible situation.  Federal
law prohibits discrimination in schools based on sex, including
harassment based on gender non-conformity.

The settlement requires the school district to revise its
anti-bullying policies; to provide mandatory training for
all students, administrators, teachers, counselors and other
staff; to conduct school climate surveys; and to form an advisory
council of administrators, students and parents to advise the
district on school climate issues related to sex-based

This landmark settlement makes it clear that schools and school
districts which fail to put the safety of all students
first and protect them from bullying and harassment will be held
accountable for their non-action. School districts without explicit
anti-bullying policies who fail to provide for the safety and
well-being of their students could be held liable and subjected to
significant financial obligations to insure that the school
climate improves.

Students like Seth live in every school district in America and
they, like all students, should feel safe and welcome at school.