A gay youth is suing his former school in New York for failing to protect him from relentlessly bullying, accusing school officials of instead blaming him for being too open about his sexuality and saying he should learn to be more accepting of the views of his fellow students.
The boy, identified as "D.S." in court papers, is suing I.S. 126Q Albert Shanker School for Visual & Performing Arts in Queens, accusing school officials of failing to stop the abuse he endured from fellow students after coming out as gay as a sixth-grader, and then suggesting it was his fault. According to a report in the New York Post, the lawsuit claims the boy was called a “faggot ass” and a “bitch” and was also harassed for “acting like a girl.” Another student allegedly said he would go to hell for his “lifestyle.”
When confronted with the repeated abuse, the lawsuit alleges school officials conducted “half-hearted investigations” and told the boy he was too “open” about being gay. The suit names the New York City Department of Education, the school’s principal, along with other staffers.
The entire ordeal left D.S. devastated and considering self-harm, according to the boy’s father, Jason Cianciotto.
“It was devastating to hear my child say that they wanted to kill themselves because the bullying wouldn’t stop,” Cianciotto told the Post. “It’s a horrific situation to be placed in.”
D.S. was taken from the custody of his drug-addicted parents and place in foster care at the age of 7. He then bounced through a series of foster homes until the age of 10, when it was found he was suffering from a malignant brain tumor. According to the lawsuit, his foster parent at the time abandoned the boy at the hospital.
Cianciotto and his husband adopted D.S. after seeing his profile on a foster care website and learning of his plight. They brought the boy home in 2017 and adopted him the following year. D.S. came out in 2017 and began attending I.S. 126Q as a sixth-grader that same year. The lawsuit alleges once the boy came out to his classmates, the bullying began and that school officials did little to help. After two years of abuse with little accountability for his abusers, D.S. was pulled out of I.S. 126Q.
Cianciotto revealed D.S. suffers from learning disabilities and was accordingly granted a hearing under the Individuals with Disabilities Act. The hearing officer found the school did little to address the abuse, and that a dean “went so far as to blame the student for making himself a target of the bullying” and that she was “at a loss to understand how an educational professional could possibly blame a child for being the victim of a prolonged and severe pattern of emotional and physical bullying,” according to the lawsuit.
A spokeswoman for the DOE described the allegations as “deeply troubling” and that the department has “absolutely zero tolerance for bullying or harassment of any kind in our schools.”
D.S. is now approaching his 15th birthday, and despite his experiences at I.S. 126Q, is happily attending an unnamed high school.