CREATED Feb. 26, 2013
ARCADIA - An openly gay teen in Southwest Florida is suing her high school for violating her constitutional rights! A national gay and lesbian organization has filed a lawsuit on her behalf. They're accusing school officials of retaliating against the student for participating in a silent protest against bullying. Four in your Corner's Mike Mason explains.
The lawsuit filed by Lambda Legal is seeking two things from the court: first they want the district to acknowledge what they did is wrong and second, they want to keep this from happening again.
16-year old Amber Hatcher is openly gay....she's also suing her school, Desoto County High - on behalf of all students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender - or LGBT.
Amber Hatcher: "The fact that they are sitting down letting this happen it makes me so very upset there are times it seems almost hopeless that people can let this happen to them."
Last April, Hatcher says administrators refused to let her participate in the ‘National Day of Silence’, a silent protest in honor of students who are bullied for being different. When Hatcher went to school, she planned to speak in class only if she was called on by teachers. Instead she was called to the office.
Amber Hatcher: “I was put in in-school suspension for the duration of the day."
Attorney Beth Littrell filed a lawsuit against the school claiming Hatcher's first amendment rights were violated.
Beth Littrell: "It is discrimination; it's also a violation of first amendment rights and the right to equal protection under the law."
The lawsuit includes an email Hatcher sent to the district's Superintendent asking for prior permission to participate in the day of silence. Records show the Superintendent then emailed Hatcher's principal saying: "Since this is classified as a protest...I will not approve the activity on our campuses." The principal responded, stating: "I addressed the issue with Miss Hatcher.....and I have each time told her "no" and what the ramifications would be if the protest occurred."
Hatcher was then suspended from school for the day. The school's new principal refused to comment but one student told us there is a real problem with gays being bullied.
Laura Schwan: "It's hard because people make fun of them and i usually shut the people who make fun of them down and I'm like, ‘hey guys, they're a person so’...
Mike: "So it's not easy."
Laura Schwan: "It's not easy no."
The National Day of Silence was founded in 1996 and this is the first time a lawsuit has been filed to help enforce it.