"Yeah, I'm gay, whatever. Peace out."
But he was teased. Bullied. The school didn't stop it. A teacher told him he should be ashamed of himself for being gay. One kid wrote "I hope you die" on his shoe. Another pulled a knife on him.
So Jacob and his Dad sued.
The new angle is that their suit, with the NYCLU, argued that people who are gay and/or who do not conform to gender stereotypes should have protection under Title IX, the federal law that "prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity." Title IX is the lever that changed girl's participation in sports, making schools accountable for including girls in sports - or risk their federal funding.
After all, it wasn't so long ago that acting like a sterotypical "girl" and being athletic were seen as mutually exclusive. And if you compare girls participation in sports from 1972 (when the law passed) to today, Title IX has helped create a gigantic shift for the better, for the fairer, for the equality of women - and thus made it a better world for us all.
Now while there is talk of settlement, this case is a warning to schools across the country that allowing harassment and bullying of their GLBTQ students is not only wrong, it's going to cost them (bad PR, and money.)
Jacob's family ultimately moved. Talking about the difference in his new school, he said:
"It's amazing. I have a lot of friends there."
I'm really proud of Jacob (and his Dad) for standing up and fighting this fight. It will make things better for other kids in both his old school, and in schools across the country.
I think it's really important that non-conforming gender expression is protected. I've heard from many teens that it's harder to be an effeminate straight guy than a butch gay one in Junior High and High School.
What about in your school?
Does something like this have a chance to impact things for the better?
Let me know what you think.