Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division/Amicus

Gitanjali Gutierrez, Larry Lustberg/Gibbons Del Deo Dolan Griffinger & Vecchione; Jeanne LoCicero/ACLU-NJ

On February 21, 2007, the New Jersey Supreme Court, upholding an Appellate Division decision, ruled that a student who was subjected to bullying based upon his perceived sexual orientation could sue the school district under the Law Against Discrimination utilizing criteria consistent with LAD employment discrimination claims (as opposed to applying the harder-to-satisfy federal standard for Title IX school discrimination cases). In a unanimous decision, the Court wrote: "Students in the classroom are entitled to no less protection from unlawful discrimination and harassment than their adult counterparts in the workplace." The Court continued: "[R]easonable measures are required to protect our youth, a duty that schools are more than capable of performing. . . . [W]e require school districts to implement effective preventive and remedial measures to curb severe or pervasive discriminatory mistreatment." The ACLU-NJ and several other child advocacy organizations had filed a joint amici curiae brief supporting L.W.'s claim by describing the negative impact that peer harassment and bullying have on students and the school environment. L.W., a student in the Toms River Schools, was subjected to anti-gay peer harassment and bullying based on his perceived sexual orientation. The harassment increased in frequency and severity as he progressed through school and eventually became so severe that he transferred to another school district.

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