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School District in Wisconsin Sued

Gay student claims bullied for years

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A former student is accusing the a Wisconsin School District and five school administrators for failing to protect him from bullying and harassment because of his sexuality reports Ximena Conde for Wisconsin Public Radio.

Guadalupe Paredes, now 19 and openly gay, alleges students in the Kenosha Unified School District began bullying him during the 2007 academic year when he was in the third grade and before he was aware of his sexuality.

Paredes alleges the bullying followed him across multiple schools.

Rock Pledl, one of the attorneys representing Paredes in his federal civil rights suit filed, said any student — regardless of their sexual orientation — could see their bullying complaints mismanaged at a school, due to a lack of follow through.

"But LGBT students have the additional problem that sometimes administrators just feel so uncomfortable with the student they’re working with, that they just don’t respond appropriately," Pledl said.

The lawsuit claims Paredes was told not to complain to the assistant principal of the school because it made the administrator feel uncomfortable.

Another administrator allegedly told Paredes' mother he brought the harassment onto himself by acting and telling students he was gay. 

The court filing describes instances where students used anti-LGBTQ+ slurs, physically hurt Paredes and one student sent Facebook messages that said Paredes should kill himself.

Despite complaints to an assistant principal, two principals and two deans from Paredes and his mother, the bullying continued until he reached the 10th grade. That same year Paredes was admitted to a hospital for inpatient psychiatric treatment.

According to the district’s anti-bullying policy, any complaints are supposed to be investigated, resulting in a written record. "We’ve got a stack of records from KUSD and there’s no evidence that there was ever any investigations into any of these complaints," said Pledl.

The lawsuit claims the bullying got so bad Paredes dropped out of school in 11th grade. Pledl said his client is worried about his future without a high school diploma.

Brian Juchems is the co-director of GSAFE, a group that works to create inclusive schools for LGBTQ+ youth. He said administrators have the responsibility to welcome and support all students "as they come to the schools, not how we want them to be or how we might want them to act or whether or not they conform to anybody’s notions of how a boy should act or how a girl should act."

A proactive approach is best when dealing with bullying, Juchems said, but if a case develops, staff need to make sure students feel safe.

While Julaine Appling, President of Wisconsin Family Action, a conservative group, said no student deserves to be bullied, she wants to wait to hear the district’s side of the story.