A federal judge ruled that a lesbian student can sue her school district and her principal for revealing her homosexuality to her mother.
Charlene Nguon, 17, may go forward with her suit claiming violation of privacy rights, U.S. District Judge James V. Selna ruled in a decision dated Nov. 28 and announced Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.
Orange County’s Garden Grove district had argued that Nguon openly kissed and hugged her girlfriend on campus and thus had no expectation of privacy.
However, the judge ruled that Nguon had “sufficiently alleged a legally protected privacy interest in information about her sexual orientation.”
No trial date was set. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.
“This is the first court ruling we’re aware of where a judge has recognized that a student has a right not to have her sexual orientation disclosed to her parents, even if she is out of the closet at school,” said Christine Sun, an ACLU attorney who brought the case.
“Coming out is a very serious decision that should not be taken away from anyone, and disclosure can cause a lot of harm to students who live in an unsupportive home.”
Nguon sued after Santiago High School Principal Ben Wolf told her mother about her sexuality last year.
“The person to decide when and how to talk with our family about this should have been my daughter, not her principal,” her mother, Crystal Chhun, said in a statement.
District officials have declined to comment on the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also claims discrimination, contending Nguon was suspended several times for ignoring orders from the principal to stop hugging and kissing her girlfriend. Heterosexual couples engaging in similar behavior were not disciplined, the lawsuit contends.