HOUSTON VOICE • FEBRUARY 4, 2000
Around the South 7
Gay man, man who used 'gay panic' executed . 7
Southwest adds anti-discrimination provisions . 7
Rights commission accused of 'litmus test' .. 7
Human rights group to monitor 'Don't Ask' . 7
Around the Nation 10
Gay couple, trans woman in airliner crash .10
Military services spell out training 10
Millionaire' quietly includes gays 10
Report says priests dying of AIDS 10
Sodomized student sues school board 11
Successful HIV drugs prompt risky behavior . 15
Weighing the relative risk 15
VOICES & ECHOES
Editorial: AIDS, the priesthood and hypocrisy . 8
Read: Finding the redneck within : 9
letters: Mayor Lee Brown, HIV and oil 9
OUT ON THE BAYOU
Big hair, big dreams 17
Cho's time lo shine 17
On Stage: Shakespeare's greatest hits 18
Eating Out: A wonderful thing 23
Oul in Print: 'Jerome' 24
Pride organizers to host media workshop . .25
Flexology: Are you over-training? 26
Community Calendar 27
Youth sues high school over anti-gay abuse
Derek Henkle claims negligence on the part of
high school administrators cost him his high school
diploma and the chance to be a teenager
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500 Lovett Blvd., Suite 200
Houston, TX 77006
by PAIGE PARVUS!
A gay Atlanta youth is suing the principals
at three high schools he attended, and five
other school officials, for failing to protect
him from anti-gay harassment and violence
and its interference with his civil right to
Derek Henkle, now 19, filed a lawsuit
Friday against Ross Gregory, principal at
Galena High School in Washoe County, Nev.,
for ignoring his repeated complaints of "anti-
gay harassment, assaults, intimidation and
discrimination" suffered while he was a student at the school.
Other plaintiffs in the suit include the
vice principal at Galena, a teacher, the
county director of students services, principals at two other high schools, and two
school police officers.
School for Henkle was a "daily nightmare,"
he told reporters during a teleconference
Friday, with attorneys Jon Davidson and Doni
Gewirtzman of Lambda Legal Defense &
"School on a daily basis was an unknown. I
would turn corners and not be sure what to
expect," Henkle said. "It was something I was
forced to attend every day, yet I was not given
any avenue to be safe. The ignoring by school
officials of my daily complaints only made it
so much worse."
School officials not only ignored Henkle's
complaints, added Davidson, they treated
him as the problem^ and violated his First
Amendment rights by telling him to change
his behavior to protect himself.
The First Amendment violations break new
ground, said Davidson, who compared the
response from Henkle's school administrators
to the controversial "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"
policy on gays in the military.
"We are trying to establish that under the
Constitution, in schools it is a violation of the
First Amendment to have a 'Don't Tell' policy," Davidson said. "If other students try to
harass or abuse those students who are 'out,'
the solution is not to tell students to go back in
ScIkhiI officials had no immediate comment
on the case, the Associated Press reported.
"We haven't been served with anything yet
and until we do, obviously we can't comment
on specifics," said district spokesman Steve
School leaders blind to abuse?
Between 1994 and 1996, Henkle, who was
openly gay while in high school, spent his
school days being harassed, threatened and
sometimes physically attacked, and was
bounced from school to school "for his own
protection," he said.
The intimidation and violence had such a
severe impact on Henkle that he was unable
to finish high school, according to the complaint filed by his attorneys in U.S. District
Court in Nevada.
"What we have here is a school district's
complete abdication of its responsibility to
protect all young people in its care," said
Henkle described a particularly harrowing
incident that he says took place in fall 1995,
scKin after he appeared on a local public access
TV show and spoke openly about being gay
Henkle, then a sophomore at Galena High
School in Reno, was walking through the
school parking lot one afternoon when some
half-dozen students surrounded him, taunting him with anti-gay slurs like "fag," "fain"
and "butt pirate," Henkle recalled.
Then, in a chilling scenario reminiscent of a
high-profile 1998 hate crime in which a Texas
black man was dragged to death behind a
truck, one of the students produced a rope
and urged his comrades to heip him "lasso the
fag," tie him behind a truck and drag him
down a nearby highway, Henkle said.
The students threw the rope around
Henkle's neck three different times, but he
was able to pull it off, he said. Terrified,
Henkle ran to the office of his English instructor, where he called assistant principal Denise
Hausauer, requesting that she come immediately.
But Hausauer didn't arrive until almost
two hours later, and when Henkle, still frightened, began to stammer out his story, she
laughed, according to Henkle.
After this incident, Henkle said, he and his
parents were told the attack would be dealt
with under the school's sexual harassment
policy. Eventually it was decided the offending students would receive a letter, written by
"Basically, Ross Gregory decided to ignore
it," Henkle said.
After a semester at Galena, Henkle asked to
be transferred and was sent to Washoe High
School, an alternative school for problem students, despite a highly promising academic
Defendants Joe Anastasio, county director
of student services, and Washoe principal Bob
Floyd ordered Henkle to hide his sexual orientation at the new school, Henkle said. As a
condition of the transfer, he was told not to
discuss his sexuality with fellow students and
to remove pro-gay buttons from his school
In a meeting, Floyd told Henkle to "stop
acting like a fag," the young man recalled.
When Henkle asked for another transfer
because of the poor academic program at
Washoe, he was initially told by Floyd that a
"traditional" high school would not be appropriate for him because he was openly gay,
But eventually he was transferred to
Wooster High School for the fall 1996 school
year, again after being warned not to disclose
his sexual orientation to other students, he
said. Former classmates knew he was gay,
though, and he fared no better at Wooster.
Midway through the school year, Henkle
alleged, he was attacked and beaten by a
group of students at Wooster, while two
Now 19, Derek Henkle hopes his lawsuit will
send a message that taunts, threats and violence against gay kids in school is not okay.
school police officers looked on. The officers, defendants Arnel Ramilo and Glen
Selbv, later discouraged Henkle from calling
the local police and refused to arrest the
youth who assaulted him.
"I was surrounded by students, all
encouraging [the attacker], and all I could
see was about a hundred yards away, two
school police officials standing there,"
Henkle said of the incident. "All I can
remember thinking was, 'Why aren't they
doing something about this?'"
In February 1997, at age 16, Henkle was
finally put into an adult education program,
where he was eligible to earn a GED but not
a high school diploma, he said.
At 17, Henkle sued to become emancipated from his parents and began living on his
own, working in television broadcasting In
1998 he moved to Atlanta, where he works
for Turner Broadcasting's Cartoon Network
as an operations coordinator. He also volunteers as communications director for Project
Freedom, a fledgling gay rights group.
Missing out on high school has placed a
continuing burden on Henkle, he said.
"I have a ton of education stuff that is
lacking, and I am doing the best I can with
what ! have," Henkle said. "I think the
strength for that really has derived from the
passion I have around these issues, and
what personally happened to me."
During high school, Henkle said, his
mother was aware of what was happening
to him, but school officials told her they
were dealing with the problem by transferring him for his own safety.
Since his troubled high school days, relations with his parents have become
stronger, Henkle said. He proudly reports
that his mother and stepfather met at a
meeting of Parents, Families and Friends of
Lesbians and Gays.
Henkle described his current relationship
with both of them as "very supportive,"
and says his father is "coming around."
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