Wadington v. Holmdel Township Board of Education

Summary

Nancy Wadington endured anti-gay abuse at Holmdel High School in New Jersey until the middle of 11th grade, when she had to leave school to protect her safety. In a lawsuit Lambda Legal filed on her behalf against school officials, Wadington asserted that she suffered verbal and physical attacks from other students over a two and a half year period. And in an effort to avoid the attacks, she stayed out of the hallways, walked around the outside of the school building to get to her next class, and stopped using the school bathrooms, which led to abdominal pain during class. Under New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination, school officials that know or should know about discriminatory abuse must take effective remedial action. After extensive pre-trial activity that led to a mediation, school officials agreed to mandatory training for administrators, faculty, and staff, and the case settled for a sum that Wadington is not allowed to disclose.

Context

In 1992, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination was amended to prohibit sexual orientation discrimination in all places of public accommodation, including schools.

Lambda Legal's Impact

This is the first known lawsuit filed under New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination to challenge successfully the anti-gay discrimination in a public school. The result paves the way for the private bar and sends a message to schools throughout the state on the importance of a safe and civil school environment. Nationally, this case is another on the list that Lambda Legal started in 1996 with Nabozny v. Podlesny, and expands relentlessly, demonstrating for public schools and students throughout the country that there is accountability for discrimination.

History

  • September 2005 Lambda Legal files lawsuit with the Superior Court of New Jersey in Monmouth County.
  • November 2006 Order denying school board’s Motion for Leave to File a Third-Party Complaint that sought to bring student harassers into the case as parties.
  • April 2007 Order denying school board’s Motion to Consolidate the case with a civil action separately filed against the student harassers, and separate civil action dismissed.
  • September 2008 Case settled after mediation.

Case Information

Status: Closed
Outcome: Victory

Plaintiff

Nancy Wadington

Attorneys

Lambda Legal
David S. Buckel, Michael Kavey , Alphonso David

Co-counsel/Cooperating Attorneys
Cynthia V. Fitzgerald, Robert J. Del Tufo, Thomas J. Nolan, David E. Springer, Mary Ann Le Fort and William F. Clarke of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom, LLP in New York City