SPLC files suit against Moss Point Schools over anti-LGBT harassment

Published: Dec. 17, 2013 at 5:21 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 18, 2013 at 10:53 AM CST
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"I deserve to go to a school where students, and especially the teachers, don't call me names,"...
"I deserve to go to a school where students, and especially the teachers, don't call me names," Holmes said.

MOSS POINT, MS (WLOX) - A civil rights organization has made good on its threat to take legal action against the Moss Point School District. On Tuesday, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal lawsuit against the district on behalf of a lesbian student.

Read a copy of the complaint here:

Back in March, WLOX News reported that the SPLC asked the Moss Point School District to change its policies to protect students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Attorneys for the organization claim the school district has not met their request.

"My grades sucked, because it was hard to concentrate with them calling you a freak, and a dyke and a lesbian," said Moss Point High Freshman Destin Holmes.

The seventeen-year-old student said the name calling and teasing started at Magnolia Junior High in the 2011-12 school year. After being home schooled for a year, Destin enrolled at Moss Point High School. She alleged the bullying continued, because she's a lesbian.

When asked how she would describe the way she was treated, Destin replied, "Horrible."

"Destin suffered from severe, pervasive harassment from students, teachers, and administrators in the district on account of her sexual orientation," said SPLC Staff Attorney Anjali Nair.

The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal lawsuit against the district Tuesday, claiming the district violated Destin's constitutional and civil rights.

"After sending the school district a demand letter in March of 2013, that they take steps to prevent and end the bullying and harassment within the school district, we were not able to reach a resolution to guarantee the safety of students like Destin," said Nair.

The lawsuit seeks to get the district to come up with comprehensive policies and practices to address bullying and harassment.

"And we're asking that the district to create policies and procedures that will hold the district accountable for responding and investigating reports of harassment. We're also seeking financial relief for Destin and her family for the harm that she suffered," said Nair.

The amount the group is seeking has not been determined yet. For Destin, she said she wants the lawsuit to open up some eyes.

"Open up their mind and realize you don't need to bully somebody just because they want to date girls or they want to be gay, or they want to be lesbian, or bi, or a transgender. I'm hoping it will just stop," she said.

Moss Point School District officials sent WLOX this statement in response to the lawsuit:

"The district has not been served with the lawsuit. Since this is a matter in litigation, we cannot speak to the specifics of the claims. Protecting our students from acts of bullying, harassment, intimidation and threats by any individual is our highest priority. The district has in place policies and procedures to ensure that our students are free from discrimination and bullying. We, as most districts across the nation, try to ensure that students in our schools are safe and secure."

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