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NYCLU, students sue McKinley principal, school district for discrimination

The Buffalo Public Schools have been hit with a lawsuit claiming the administration of McKinley High School actively blocked the formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance at the school and the district is not doing anything about the discrimination.

On behalf of McKinley junior Byshop Elliot and another student named Melissa, the New York Civil Liberties Union has sued the district and Principal Crystal Boling-Barton, claiming routine, open and systematic discrimination against LGBTQ students.

Led by Elliott, students have been trying to form the supportive alliance for several years, but were either turned down or received no response from the administration. NYCLU lawyers say the school blocks same-sex students from attending the prom together and will prevent same-sex students from dancing together.

NYCLU Staff Attorney Bobby Hodgson says the discrimination has been blatant.

"Announcements over loudspeakers have warned them that same-sex pairs would not be allowed to purchase couple's tickets to Prom," Hodgson says. "At dances, same-sex couples would be prohibited from dancing together and the latest Gay-Straight-Alliance or GSA application that Byshop submitted at the beginning of this school year remains unapproved. This is not new. This is not a secret."

Western New York NYCLU Director John Curr says students have rights.

"Students must be able to feel safe being themselves and to be free to participate in clubs and activities that promote acceptance and diversity among a membership and supportive advisors and staff," Curr says. "People like Byshop and Destiny have tried for years to form a Gay-Straight-Alliance, where they can come together with their peers and know that they belong. It's outrageous that their attempts to form a GSA have been thwarted at every turn."

District General Counsel Nate Kuzma says he has not been served with the legal papers, but did find the legal complaint online. He says the charges will be looked into.

Byshop says he has friends and participates in a variety of activities, including being a cheerleader, but wants to leave a better school for future students.

"Then there's just the love for McKinley I do have, just as the school itself," said Byshop. "But everyone has their green and red sides of everything. I feel that me running away or leaving McKinley isn't helping anyone for the future, who will be attending freshman or the freshman now who are going to spend their next three years there."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.