Undated 2012 photo of Darnell "Dynasty" Young with his mother, Chelisa Grimes.
An openly gay Indianapolis teenager who was expelled after firing a stun gun at school to scare away what he said were bullies is suing the school district, accusing it of failing to stop “relentless, severe harassment” by other students.
A lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis on behalf of Darnell “Dynasty” Young, 17, claims teachers and staff at Arsenal Technical High School ignored his repeated pleas to protect him from ongoing abuse on school grounds.
From the day he arrived at Tech, Plaintiff Dynasty Young was subjected to relentless, severe harassment and abuse by other students because he was perceived as gay and because his clothing, behavior, and demeanor did not fit stereotypical notions of masculinity. He repeatedly reported the abuse to school staff. Rather than take effective measures to protect him, school staff told him that he was to blame for the harassment because of his appearance and told him to change his dress and behavior to conform to stereotypical ideas of masculinity and to be less “flamboyant.”
The Indianapolis School District said its attorneys will review the lawsuit “and respond accordingly.” It said in a statement:
"We are pleased that last week, the Indianapolis Marion County Equal Opportunity agency dismissed its complaint against Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) in the matter of former Arsenal Technical High school student Darnell Young. The agency concluded that IPS provided a sufficient response to the Complaint (it filed on Young’s behalf) and that no further action was appropriate.”
Young often wore some of his mother’s clothes to school, including knee-high boots, purses, rings and bangles. These accessories were permitted under the school’s dress code, the lawsuit says.
Young says fellow students spat at him, called him derogatory names and threw rocks and empty bottles at him because of the way he dressed and what they perceived as unmasculine behavior.
Young’s mother, Chelisa Grimes, says she eventually gave her son a stun gun to protect himself because she feared for his life.
On April 16, according to the lawsuit, Young was accosted by six male students between classes who yelled at him and threatened to attack him. He fired the stun gun into the air, scaring off the group.
Not long after Dynasty sat down for his next class, a school security officer came into the classroom, cuffed him and escorted him out. The officer remarked, “If you did not dress like this, people would not mess with you,” the lawsuit says.
Young was expelled for a full school year. The school district later reduced the expulsion, but on the condition that Young transfer to an alternative high school.
Young declined and eventually enrolled at Indianapolis Metropolitan High School, a charter school not affiliated with Indianapolis Public Schools, where he is taking extra classes in an effort to try graduate on schedule in 2013.
“I want to make sure no other student in the Indianapolis Public Schools ever has to go through the kind of abuse that I went through. I am hoping this will get IPS to start treating kids like me with respect and really do something to protect their students,” Young said in a press release issued by the National Center for Lesbian Rights. The center and the law firms of Kirkland & Ellis LLP and Waples & Hanger filed the lawsuit.
“My son is a wonderful, sweet, talented young man,” added Grimes. “He deserves a chance to attend school and learn without being terrorized by other students and told that the school will not protect him unless he changes who he is.”
The lawsuit claims violations of federal civil and constitutional rights. It seeks unspecified damages and a reversal of Young’s expulsion.
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