Alabama school system to adopt LGBTQ+ protections following federal civil rights lawsuit settlement
Huntsville City Schools has agreed to implement a series of policy and training changes designed to better protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students from sex-based harassment.
This comes as the family of Nigel Shelby, a Black, openly gay teenager who died by suicide in April of 2019 after experiencing anti-gay harassment and race discrimination while attending Alabama’s Huntsville High School, reached a settlement with the Huntsville City Board of Education. He was 15 years old. The settlement ends the federal civil rights lawsuit brought by Shelby’s parents following his death.
“There is no amount of money in the world that could ever replace Nigel,” said Camika Shelby, Nigel’s mother, in a press release. “You can’t put a price on a child. This lawsuit was about bringing change. It was about acknowledging that there needs to be change. It was about saving someone else’s child so that they don’t have to go through the horrible tragedy that I have. I hope this settlement will help bring about that change.”
According to a press release from the national nonprofit legal advocacy organization Public Justice, this settlement requires the board to implement a series of policy and training changes by:
- Making Title IX policy changes clarifying that sex-based discrimination includes conduct based on a person’s sexual orientation and nonconformity to gender stereotypes
- Ensuring additional, readily accessible resources and information on how to identify and report bullying and harassment, including harassment of LGBTQ students, are available for all district students and parents
- Implementing professional development and external training on best practices for all school administrators, faculty and other personnel who regularly interact with students or are involved in receiving or investigating bullying and harassment complaints, including harassment of LGBTQ students
- Hiring external consultants with expertise in schools’ prevention and response to LGBTQ harassment and racism to conduct a comprehensive review of the district’s relevant policies, practices, procedures, and training; conduct climate assessments; and make recommendations for improvement
- Conducting annual school climate surveys to identify and assess harassment and bullying in the district’s schools
- Developing and implementing district-wide procedures for electronically recording and tracking all incidents of bullying and harassment
- Continuing to implement a suicide prevention program for students and considering any improvements recommended by the external consultants
- Providing annual reports for three years to counsel for Nigel’s family showing compliance with the non-monetary terms of the settlement
Public Justice reports that with more than 300 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced by state lawmakers in the past year, Alabama lawmakers have sought to advance a record number of bills targeting LGBTQ rights, including passing one of the most anti-transgender legislative packages in history. Currently, Alabama joins 24 other states that don’t have laws protecting LGBTQ students from bullying on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.