Nabozny v. Podlesny

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Status: Closed
Outcome:
Landmark Case, Victory
Court:
U.S. Court of Appeals, 7th Circuit
Issues: Teens & Young Adults, Youth and Schools

Groundbreaking case arguing that schools have a responsibility to protect students from antigay verbal and physical abuse

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Jamie Nabozny was subjected to relentless verbal and physical abuse by students at his public high school, and settled his case for close to $1 million with Lambda Legal's help. Visit our Know Your Rights: Youth campaign hub to learn more and take action. 

Summary

For four years Jamie Nabozny was subjected to relentless antigay verbal and physical abuse by fellow students at his public high school in Ashland, Wisconsin. Students urinated on him, pretended to rape him during class and when they found him alone kicked him so many times in the stomach that he required surgery. Although they knew of the abuse, school officials said at one point that Nabozny should expect it if he’s gay. Nabozny attempted suicide several times, dropped out of school and ultimately ran away. But he wanted to make sure that other students didn’t go through the same kind of nightmare. He sued his former school, but a trial court dismissed his lawsuit. Lambda Legal took over his case before a federal appeals court, which issued the first judicial opinion in the nation’s history finding that a public school could be held accountable for not stopping antigay abuse. The case went back to trial and a jury found the school officials liable for the harm they caused to Nabozny. The case then settled for close to $1 million.

Context

Around the time of our work on this case, one of many studies of gay-identified students in public schools found them nearly seven times more likely to have been threatened or injured with a weapon at school and four times more likely to attempt suicide. After our victory, Lambda Legal launched a groundbreaking educational and litigation campaign in defense of youth that the National Education Association recognized with its Award for Creative Leadership in Civil Rights.

Lambda Legal's Impact

This historic victory was the first legal challenge to antigay violence in public schools. The 1996 precedent on appeal, followed by the million-dollar verdict and settlement, electrified the nation’s education community and led to an explosion in legal advocacy for LGBTQ youth.