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$300,000 award to bullied gay and lesbian high school students upheld

Lambda Legal news release:

‘My experience at Poway was just three years of my life I’d love to forget’

(San Diego, October 10, 2008) --- In a 3-0 decision, the California Court of Appeal (Fourth District) today upheld a jury decision that found that Poway Unified School District officials took minimal or no action at all when two Poway High School students were subjected to relentless harassment because they are gay and lesbian.  The ruling upheld an award of $300,000 to Megan Donovan and Joey Ramelli under the state education code.

“We’re pleased the court today recognized that every student has a right to feel safe and protected at school,” said Lambda Legal Senior Staff Attorney Brian Chase.  “Unfortunately, what happened to Megan and Joey is far from uncommon.  We hope this lawsuit and the attention it has generated will remind school officials everywhere that parents expect their kids to be safe from bullying and violence during school hours.”

Ramelli and Donovan were students at Poway High School in northern San Diego County. Over the course of their junior year other students verbally abused them unrelentingly with antigay slurs and Joey was physically assaulted and his car vandalized. Both eventually dropped out of Poway High School and completed studies toward their high school diplomas at home.

“I was physically attacked and even had threats on my life,” said Ramelli.”  “I begged school officials for help, but they just didn’t care.  No student anywhere should have to go through what I did.  For me, my whole experience at Poway was just three years of my life I’d love to forget.”

Staff Attorney Brian Chase, based in Lambda Legal’s Western Regional Office in Los Angeles, is the organization’s lead attorney on the case. Lambda Legal’s Deputy Legal Director Hayley Gorenberg and co-counsel Paula S. Rosenstein and Bridget J. Wilson of the law firm Rosenstein, Wilson & Dean, P. L. C. in San Diego, join him on the case.

The case is Donovan and Ramelli v. Poway Unified School District.


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