A school in California has settled a lawsuit brought against by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California for allowing a sexist and homophobic atmosphere to flourish on campus.

According to the lawsuit, students at Corona del Mar High School “are routinely referred to … with words such as ‘dyke,’ ‘butch,’ ‘fairy,’ ‘gay,’ ‘homo’ and ‘queer’ by other students at school in hallways and classrooms within earshot of teachers, but without repercussion”.

It also said that the school allowed and sanctioned “an atmosphere that is hostile to female, lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender students in general”.

The homophobic environment is said to have led to threats of violence against Hail Ketchum, a senior at the school at the time. Ketchum, who performed in the school production of the play Rent – which features gay characters – was threatened with rape and murder by male school athletes. The play was at first banned by the school and then finally allowed to go ahead.

Under the agreement filed in the Orange County Superior Court, school district officials will provide a written apology to Ketchum.

The district will also provide mandatory training sessions for administrators, teachers and students that will focus on the harmful impact of sexual discrimination and harassment, as well as on federal law and complaint procedures to be followed whenever anyone experiences discrimination or harassment based on sex, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Ketchum, who agreed to be publicly identified for the first time, said that while the district’s apology to her is important, she’s been primarily interested in ensuring that district officials do everything they can to prevent other students from being the target of vitriolic comments and threats like those she experienced.

Those attacks “were disgusting and very disturbing to me personally,” she said. “But what was really disheartening is that when I complained about them, the administrators did little to deal with them. I’m happy that the settlement provides the school with a road map of how to address situations like this more appropriately”.

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