Mistreatment of LGBT students at a Mississippi junior high school is being addressed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). With the issuing of an open letter to the current principal and superintendent, the organization has laid claims that harassment of students was being conducted by both students and faculty.
The SPLC is initially filing these claims based on an account given by former 8th grade student, Desgin Holmes. In the open letter, they say that Holmes, “found respite only after she left Magnolia, a decision made after harassment continued unabated and Principal Peyton told Destin during an in person meeting in March of 2012, ‘I don’t want a dyke in this school.’”
On Holmes’ first day at the school, the now 16-year-old was already experiencing discrimination. She said that people had no idea what gender she was and they began to call her “a dyke, a lesbian, a freak, an alien.”
After having had enough of the harassment, she went to the principle to talk about the way her peers were treating her. She claims she would talk to the principle and give him names of the students and faculty responsible, but the principle never did anything about it. Holmes says she couldn’t stand being at school, and would often lie and pretend she was sick so she could stay home.
“One day in math class, we were playing this jeopardy game, like a math trivia type of game and the class was divided by boys versus girls,” says Holmes, recounting one of the more humiliating situations she was placed in.“I wasn’t on a team; I was by myself in the middle. The teacher told me I had to be in the middle. She said ‘you, that. You can just be on a team by yourself.’ I felt unwanted and left out.”
Another time, Holmes was punished for throwing papers and pencils back at a boy who had been throwing them at her while calling her names. The boy was not punished, but Holmes says, tearing up, that she was “written up and I was sent to ISS, in school suspension, for three days. Even though the other student called me a dyke-ass lesbian, a poser, a freak.”
Throughout Holmes’ time at Magnolia Junior High School, she was repeatedly called an “it” “queer” and a “he-she” by both students and teachers. She only attended the school from August 2011 to March 2012 before being told she had to leave.
In the open letter, SPLC said that school officials “unlawfully blamed Destin for the harassment against her.”
The organization is calling for “prompt and meaningful action to remedy the hostile environment against LGBT students in the Moss Point School District.” If the district does not take action, SPLC intends to “file a federal lawsuit seeking full redress for Destin as well as attorneys’ fees and costs. If the District wishes to avoid litigation, we welcome an opportunity to meet with District representatives and discuss potential solutions.”