14. Do school employees have a legal responsibility to take action when they hear anti-LGBT slurs in the hallways or on the playground?
 
  Public school employees have no freestanding constitutional obligation to take action against name-calling. However, if school employees take action against some kinds of harassment (as they mostly do when they’re aware of it), they can’t irrationally choose to ignore other kinds of mistreatment. This means they cannot treat harassment less seriously just because it is anti-LGBT in nature.20 Non-discrimination with respect to sexual orientation and gender identity is also a matter of Washington State law. That said, failure to respond to a single incident of anti-LGBT name-calling is not likely to result in a finding that a student’s rights were violated, either under state or federal law.21 Discriminatory harassment generally must reach a certain level of severity and/or pervasiveness before a school or its officials can be held liable for failing to address it.


20 Court cases applying these principles include Flores v. Morgan Hill Unified Sch. Dist., 324 F.3d 1130 (9th Cir. 2003); Nabozny v. Podlesny, 92 F.3d 446 (1996); Seiwert v. Spencer-Owen Comm’y Sch. Corp., 497 F. Supp. 2d 942 (D. Ind. 2007); and Montgomery v. Independent School Dist. No. 709, 109 F.Supp.2d 1081 (D. Minn. 2000). See also this page from the ACLU of Washington about a lawsuit brought by former high school student Mark Iversen: www.aclu-wa.org/detail.cfm?id=174
21 Washington Revised Code §§ 49.60.010, 49.60.040, 49.60.215. See also The Washington State Human Rights Commission page about the complaint process:
www.hum.wa.gov/complaintProcess/

 
a. In most circumstances, yes, under both state and federal law YES!  
b. Not federally, but in Washington State that’s the law  
c. No, but some districts provide that protection by policy  
       
       
     
   
 
  home