Principal Allegedly Outs Gay Students
List of Student Couples -- Including Gay Duos -- Was Allegedly Posted in a Memphis H.S.
Memphis Principal Daphne Beasley
By EMILY FRIEDMAN
May 2, 2008 —
A Memphis high school principal, fed up with public displays of affection in the hallways, allegedly displayed a list of couples including some who are gay in the school, publicly outing the boys and violating their privacy, according to one of the students involved.
"I really feel that my personal privacy was invaded," Nicholas, one of the young men who claims his sexuality was exposed without his approval by his principal, told ABC News' Memphis affiliate Eyewitness News Everywhere. "I mean, Principal Beasley called my mother and outted me to my mother!"
"It was actually frightening," Nicholas said of the incident, which occurred in Fall 2007, "to see a list with my name on it where not just other teachers could see but students as well."
Nicholas, an 11th grader at Hollis F. Price Middle College High School in Memphis, was allegedly named, along with his suspected boyfriend, 10th grader Andrew, on a list of couples posted by their principal, Daphne Beasley.
Beasley did not return calls made by ABCNEWS.com but according to a statement from the Memphis school district, while the principal was tired of the hallway hanky-panky, she did nothing wrong in alerting parents to the activity.
"The principal did not list any information other than students' names on her personal call list, and she certainly did not specify the sexual orientation of any student," said Van D. Turner, Jr., associate general counsel of the Memphis City Schools Board of Education, in a statement provided to ABCNEWS.com. "Additionally, the list was never posted publicly anywhere at the school."
According to the statement, this "call list" was used by Beasley to "notify the parents of those children she knew to be involved romantically" after the school received "numerous complaints" of "explicit sexual behavior in public view."
ACLU Threatens Legal Action
The case has been taken up by the leading civil liberties group in the United States.
"I really couldn't believe that a principal would have done something like this," said Christine Sun, the American Civil Liberties Union attorney handling the case after it was brought to her attention by Nicholas' mother.
"The Constitution provides all of us with the right to privacy and the right to associate whomever we want to associate with," said Sun. "And by creating this list and intruding upon these students' privacy without any reason to, she violated their constitutional rights."
The ACLU claims in a letter to the Memphis City Schools dated April 29 that the principal requested over the school intercom system that all the teachers and staff provide her with the names of students who were a couple, "hetero or homo."
What's more, according to the ACLU, the list was not as confidential as the school district claims, but rather posted in full view of those who entered the principal's office including gossipy high school students.
"The list was in plain site of anyone who walked into the principal's office," said Sun, who said there were approximately 15 other couples on the list, including several more who were also gay. "It's our understanding that [Nicholas and Andrew's] names, and the fact that they were a couple, quickly spread at the school."
Sun, who told ABCNEWS.com that she believes the Memphis school district to be "homophobic," said that Nicholas' mother who was "shocked" to hear that her son is gay reported that Beasley said she "had a problem with homosexuality" and that "homosexuality will not be tolerated."
ABC News doesn't have the last names of the students, and the ACLU said both the boys and their parents declined to be interviewed for this story.
"It's raised our concerns about how gay students are treated," added Sun, who said that the ACLU will take legal action if they do not receive a response from the Memphis School District before May 9.
The school board, meanwhile, is sticking to its stance.
"It is the position of the Memphis City Schools that he principal did act in an appropriate manner in order to correct a serious issue [of public display of affection] at the school and that Memphis City Schools has not subjected either of these students to discriminatory treatment," said the school board's Turner in the statement.
A formal response will be drafted before the ACLU's deadline, Turner told ABCNEWS.com.