FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 6, 2021
CONTACT: Mark McCormick, Director of Strategic Communications, 913-490-4113, [email protected]
OVERLAND PARK, KS --- The ACLU of Kansas has sent a letter to the North Lyon County school district notifying officials there that a principal and bus driver likely violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and a student’s Constitutional rights on a school bus.
The July 6 letter, addressed to Superintendent Robert Blair, detailed the January incident on a school bus, and the school’s reaction to it, in which Principal Corey Wiltz and bus driver Kristi Gadino discriminated against our 14-year-old client, Izzy Dieker, because she is a lesbian.
“We urge USD 251 to take action in light of these findings to avoid prolonged litigation,” said ACLU of Kansas Legal Director Sharon Brett in the letter. “USD 251 must rectify the wrongs Izzy experienced and ensure that its policies, practices, and training will protect all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and gender nonconforming students in USD 251 from discrimination and harassment.”
On Jan. 27, Izzy was riding the bus home from North Lyons County Elementary School. The atmosphere on the bus was chaotic – students had leaned into the walkway, the noise level was loud and some students were using vulgar language.
At no point did bus driver Gadino address any of these issues.
Gadino did, however, pull the bus over and reprimand Izzy when Izzy stated plainly, “I’m a lesbian.” The driver told Izzy to “Watch your mouth,” and then said, “I’ve got little kids up here. Do you think these little kindergarteners need to know what that word means?”
Gadino wrote Izzy up for “Disobeying Driver,” “Unacceptable Language,” and “Rude, Discourteous, Noisy or Annoying.” Izzy’s parents were later informed that she would be suspended from the bus for several days for cursing and failing to follow directions from the driver.
A video revealed that Izzy had not sworn and had been cooperative, still Principal Wiltz said Izzy’s suspension would stand because she stated, “I’m a lesbian,” and that that was inappropriate.
According to the letter, a teacher later went with Izzy to meet with Wiltz and asked, “If she had said, “I’m straight,” would we be here?” to which Wiltz responded, “No, because it’s not inappropriate.”
In addition to violating Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, the school’s actions violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Moreover, school district employees took action against Izzy for exercising her First Amendment rights to free speech.
An independent investigator appointed by USD 251 already has found that these employees violated Title IX. That finding was upheld on appeal.
“We eagerly await their response,” Brett said. “Izzy and all students like her, deserve better.”
# # #
About the ACLU of Kansas: The ACLU of Kansas is the statewide affiliate of the national American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU of Kansas is dedicated to preserving and advancing the civil rights and legal freedoms guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. For more information, visit our website at www.aclukansas.org.