Student wins settlement for gay harassment

May 18, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
In Vallejo, a high school student has left a legacy in her district -- one that was hard fought and painful. But after all of that, she has now become a symbol.

MOST POPULAR: Video, stories and more
SIGN-UP: Get breaking news sent to you

It had been awhile since Rochelle Hamilton of Vallejo visited Bethel High School, since there were too many bad memories.

"Are you comfortable here?" asked ABC7's Wayne Freedman.
"No. Kind of gives me the chills to be here," said Hamilton.

Now, she and her family see this place with a sense of vindication.

"I'm angry because my daughter was hurt," said Cheri Hamilton, Rochelle's mother.

Cheri suspected that her daughter might be gay long before she ever told her, but Rochelle soon learned, some of the teachers at Bethel were not as supportive.

"Comments were said like they don't know if I was a boy or a girl, I need to pull up my pants, I'm a lady. I couldn't be put into a girls locker room," said Hamilton.

And these acts occurred in a state where the law requires districts to protect students from harassment or discrimination. At her mom's insistence, Hamilton pressed her case all the way to the ACLU. On Monday, it and the Vallejo City Unified School District announced a settlement.

"Well I think the student experience something or she wouldn't have come forward," said Mary Bull, Ph.D., the Vallejo Superintendant.

In agreeing to settle this case, the school district did not acknowledge wrong doing, but actions may speak louder than words. The district will pay Hamilton $25,000. The district also agreed to a mandatory training program for students and faculty about discrimination and harassment.

"We embrace this settlement. Philosophically, there is not any ounce of resistance toward doing the right thing here," said Bull.

Ultimately, Hamilton paid a price for this. Her grades dropped. She changed schools and will not graduate on schedule. On the upside, this is a high school junior who has no problem looking in a mirror.

"I just want people to see that they can stand up for their rights and who they are and be who they want to be. Don't let anybody put you down," said Hamilton.

       Today's latest headlines | ABC7 News on your phone
Follow us on Twitter | Fan us on Facebook | Get our free widget


Load Comments