Schools Cannot 'Out' Gay Students, Federal Judge Rules

Teen can sue district for revealing her sexual orientation to her mother.

A federal judge ruled this week that school districts cannot "out" gay students even if their sexual orientation is known on campus. The ruling paved the way for a discrimination lawsuit by a 17-year-old student to go forward against the Garden Grove Unified School District in California, after Charlene Nguon alleged that officials unfairly disciplined her this year for hugging and kissing her girlfriend on campus.

Her punishment? Administrators revealed Nguon's sexual orientation to her mother and temporarily forced the teen to change schools.

According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, the district wanted Nguon's suit to be dismissed, arguing that the student had no expectation of privacy about her sexual orientation because she was openly gay at school. U.S. District Judge James V. Selna rejected that argument and allowed a claim that the district violated Nguon's privacy rights.

The American Civil Liberties Union attorney who is representing Nguon, Christine Sun, praised the ruling. "Even though the information might have been known to some people, it wasn't known to the family," she said of Nguon's sexual orientation, according to the Times. "She had a right to tell her family on her own terms, especially when it's such a sensitive matter in a lot of families."

Nguon's suit seeks unspecified damages and requests that the district establish, among other measures, a policy prohibiting administrators from revealing a student's sexual orientation.

"It's a really good thing for the case and for other students," Nguon told the paper. "I hope it would, like, tell [school officials] that they can't ... go around invading people's privacy rights."

A school district spokesman declined to comment to the Times for the story and could not be reached for comment at press time.