Two anonymous notes were shoved inside James Anthony Scott’s locker, one scrawled with a gay slur on an orange paper leaf. The other warning him to get out “OR DIE!”
Scott, 16, sued the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) for their lack of response to bullying Scott claims he experienced as a sophomore during the 2013 fall semester at Daniel Pearl Magnet High School (DPMHS). Scott is seeking an unspecified amount for compensatory damages.
Scott, who goes by the name Shear Avory, enrolled in DPMHS in August 2013 as a non-conforming gay student, prepared to learn and make high school memories.
Instead, Avory claims being harassed and assaulted by a group of eight students who called him gay slurs, according to the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on June 6, 2014.
According to the lawsuit, Avory alleges to have been tripped, shoved and even spit on as acts of discrimination against his sexual orientation, which violates the anti-discrimination California Education Code. However, DPMHS students believe the school is safe despite the lawsuit.
“The district’s policy is clear: We investigate any allegation of bullying and implement appropriate consequences and interventions accordingly. District policies require that schools follow positive progressive discipline practices,” LAUSD said in a statement sent to NBC4 News. “L.A. Unified is a national advocate for safe and affirming schools for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning students. We will continue to work closely with the school, the student, and the family.”
Nicole Milburn experienced a similar situation.
Identifying as non-binary since elementary school, they were outed their freshman year of high school. Even after attending an all girl’s Catholic school in New Orleans, Louisiana for their entire academic career, they still faced backlash for their sexual orientation.
“I was nothing but a piece of gossip– something to gawk and laugh at. Just someone to avoid at all costs,” Milburn said on in an interview conducted through email. “For the entirety of my freshman year, I had empty desks on all sides of me in every class I attended. No one sat near me. It was like I was contagious.”
Milburn recalls her girlfriend at the time transferring schools because of the bullying. Milburn stayed. But on one particularly “cruddy” day, a favorite middle school teacher who knew of their identity, sat them down.
Instead of offering support, the teacher told them that they “couldn’t possibly be sure about (their) sexuality yet” and that they were “probably just experimenting.” Milburn never reported the conversation due to the school’s overall neglect.
“Not only was that a really inappropriate thing for a male faculty member– or really any faculty member– to say, but it was really disappointing that even one of the few people I felt safe with in that place didn’t respect or support my identity,” Milburn said. “That hurt.”
Now 19, identifying as gender-queer and attending William Smith, an all women’s liberal arts college in Geneva, New York, Milburn feels more accepted. They joined the executive board of the institution’s Pride Alliance where daily involvement of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and other orientations are discussed on campus and the surrounding area.
Although the LGBT Movement has taken some victories, like Ireland legalizing same-sex marriage on May 22 and accommodating transgender students with restrooms in California on Jan. 1, 2014, there is little being done for LGBT youth in schools nationwide.
According to a survey the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) conducted in 2011, about 82% of LGBT youth have faced bullying the previous year due to their sexual orientation. Teens that felt unsafe at school because of their sexuality reached 64%. Teens who felt unsafe at school because of their gender identification included 44% of those surveyed.
Avory is currently appealing for California Sen. Barbara Boxer to create an anti-bullying legislation. He has since left DPMHS and is attending Opportunities for Learning School in Studio City, California.
Avory’s attorney, Gloria Allred, did not return calls to comment made on May 12 or 22. LAUSD’s attorney Valerie Rojas did not return calls to comment made on May 12 or 22.
“We expect that he will be welcomed as a hero for standing up against discrimination and we look forward to asserting and vindicating his rights in a court of law,” Gloria Allred’s statement filed June 5, 2014 said.
The trial date for Avory’s lawsuit against LAUSD is set for Sept. 24.