Plymouth-Canton Education Association v. Plymouth-Canton Board of Education

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Lambda Legal and GLSEN/Chicago Present Safe School Forum
May 2, 2002

(CHICAGO, May 2, 2002) - Lambda Legal Senior Staff Attorney Heather Sawyer will join Michigan teachers Mike Chiumento and Tom Salbenblatt for a discussion about their recent victory over discrimination, and about Lambda Legal’s efforts to help create safer schools for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students and teachers across the country. Also, Jean Miller, union president from National Education Association District 207 will give an update on several local union issues. Teaming up with the teachers’ union, Sawyer represented Chiumento and Salbenblatt in their challenge to the Plymouth-Canton Community School District’s order that they dismantle their lesbian and gay history month displays. A Michigan arbitrator recently ordered the school district to apologize for its misconduct against the two teachers. The arbitrator found the district had violated its union contract, as well as one teacher’s constitutional right of free speech. In addition, he determined the district discriminated against the teachers because of their sexual orientation and subjected them to unwarranted public harassment. Chiumento and Salbenblatt’s displays were in keeping with the school’s theme of respect and dignity for all, and followed similar lesbian and gay history month displays that previously were created by a staff member who is not gay. When Chiumento and Salbenblatt created displays at their schools in 1999, however, the interim superintendent and members of the Board of Education attacked them for supposedly “promoting” their personal “lifestyles.” “For a school district to exclude lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students from a campaign of ‘respect and dignity for all’ is very damaging to all students,” said Sawyer. “The arbitrator’s decision rejects discrimination against gay students and teachers.” Sawyer and the teachers will discuss their recent victory, as well as how to create safer schools for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender teachers and students on May 14 at the Conrad Sulzer Library in Chicago. National Education Association District 207 Union President Jean Miller will follow up this discussion with an update on the climate of Chicago’s public schools.

Lambda Legal is the nation’s oldest and largest legal organization dedicated to the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, the transgendered, and people with HIV or AIDS. Headquartered in New York, Lambda Legal has regional offices in Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and will be opening an office in Dallas later this year.

GLSEN Chicago is the local chapter of the national Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN). GLSEN Chicago strives to assure that each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.

WHAT: Creating Safer Schools for LGBT Teachers and Students
WHO: Lambda Legal Senior Staff Attorney Heather Sawyer and Plymouth-Canton Community School teachers Mike Chiumento and Tom Salbenblatt, and Jean Miller, National Education Association District 207 union president
WHERE: Conrad Sulzer Library, 4455 N. Lincoln, Chicago
WHEN: Tuesday, May 14, 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.

Contact: RoiAnn Phillips: 312-663-4413 x 27
Brett Smiley: 312-409-1835



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