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Jamie Nabozny November 1996: a youth's court victory against the school that failed to protect him from antigay abuse gives hope to teens like Derek Henkle. (Safety in numbers).

As a young man facing constant and brutal harassment at my high school, I remember the first time I realized that the abuse I was facing was not unique and that I was not alone. I remember reading about Jamie Nabozny in Out magazine in April 1997, Jamie went to school in Ashland, Wis., where he was terrorized daily, urinated on, subjected to a mock rape, and beaten so badly that he needed surgery. Jamie's school experience is not that different from mine, and it reflects the national problem of homophobia in schools.

The distinctive thing about Jamie's story is that he was the first young person to do something about the harassment! After dropping out twice, Jamie sued his school district in federal court with the help of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. After setbacks and appeals and, finally, a trial, he won his case, settling for nearly $1 million--for the first time establishing a significant price tag for school districts and school officials who turn a blind eye as students are abused for their sexual orientation or gender identity.

With countless youth service organizations, high school gay-straight alliances, and allies of all sorts now working for equal protection for GIRT students, it is important to remember that in 1995 (when Nabozny first filed suit) it was the power of one youth standing up and saying "I'm not going to take it anymore" that put the train on its track,

Henkle won a $451,000 settlement from the Washoe County School District in Reno, Nev., in August, after two years of civil litigation.
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Author:Henkle, Derek
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Date:Nov 12, 2002
Previous Article:Studio 54. (Safety in numbers).
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