A 16 year old lesbian student has received a $25 000 settlement after suing Vallejo City Unified School District for anti-gay harassment and discrimination.

Rochelle Hamilton claimed that during her sophomore year teachers at Jesse Bethel High School would force her to attend counselling session for gay students were they would discourage the students from being gay.

Staff members also allegedly harassed her saying that she was “ungodly” and “going to hell”. Teachers would also lock her out of the girl’s locker room because of her boyish dress sense.

“Remember, you’re a girl, not a boy,” and, “You can get HIV/AIDS from being gay and messing with females,” were some of the comments made to her by other staff members.

Hamilton, who came out when she was 13, said: “All I ever wanted was to be able to go to school and just be myself. But I couldn’t do that when the people I was supposed to be learning from were judging me and telling me something was wrong with me. How was I supposed to learn when I was constantly scared?”

The agreement between the Vallejo City Unified School District and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who represented the case on Hamilton’s behalf, was reached without litigation, said ACLU attorney Elizabeth Gil.

“California school districts are required by state law to protect students from harassment and discrimination, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. If a school district ignores anti-gay bias in schools, it is plainly violating both state and federal law. These laws are designed, in part, to ensure that all students are able to learn and thrive free from bias. When it’s left unchecked, harassment can take a serious toll on students,” Gil said.

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