The Southern Poverty Law Center has announced a settlement of its federal lawsuit alleging that gay students were routinely bullied in a south Mississippi school district.
In a statement Wednesday, the law center says the Moss Point School District has agreed to adopt and implement new anti-bullying and discrimination policies and procedures, as well as equal educational opportunity policies to prohibit bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
SPLC staff attorney Anjali Nair says complaints by students, parents and guardians will now quickly be brought to the attention of teachers and administrators.
“We’re proud of Destin and her grandmother for having the courage to stand up for Destin’s rights and share their story,” Nair said in a press release.
“Educators have an obligation to ensure students have the opportunity to learn in an environment free of bigotry and harassment. We applaud the district for taking these steps to protect students regardless of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or conformity to antiquated notions of gender stereotypes. We hope this settlement will provide a more inclusive environment at Moss Point schools and will serve as a model to help protect students from similar discrimination in other districts.”
The SPLC sued the district in December 2013.
The SPLC sued the district in December 2013 on behalf of Destin Holmes, now 18, but it also said other gay and transgender students, or those who are perceived to be, were subjected to mistreatment.
“I had to go through years of bullying,” Holmes said in the media release. “I wanted to make sure other LGBT students would not have to go through what I went through because of who they are or how they dress. I hope the settlement will make it easier for LGBT students at Moss Point and send the message to other students across the country who may be experiencing similar bullying that equal treatment is a right.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.