Oh, puhhlease: Lesbians expelled from school

With all the problems facing teenage students, one California private institution embarks on a witch hunt.

Published January 28, 2009 3:15PM (EST)

Back in my day, you had to wake up pretty early to get expelled from high school. You had to rise at the crack of dawn and sell drugs to the children of well-connected bankers and lawyers. You had to trudge a mile in the snow to flip off a teacher (like, repeatedly). You had to make some kind of threat, like: I'm going to blow up this stupid school. I think maybe you could also get expelled for wearing shorts above the knee. Such are the baffling, inexplicable rules of high school expulsion.

But even in my conservative Texas high school, you could not be expelled for being a lesbian. Far less for exhibiting "a bond of intimacy" that was "characteristic of a lesbian relationship" -- which, by the way, sounds like approximately 86 percent of female friendships. But such was the case in California, where two 16-year-old girls were expelled for "conducting themselves in a manner consistent with being lesbians." An appeals court recently ruled that "the private religious school was not a business and therefore did not have to comply with a state law that prohibits businesses from discriminating," according to a story in today's L.A. Times.

The Times story recounts the twisty tale that led a teacher (tipped off by a student) to probe the terrifying waters of MySpace, where she found such incendiary evidence as the fact that one of the students identified as a bisexual. There was also a photo of the two girls hugging. (Hugging?!?! Shouldn't you get some kind of merit badge for that?) Seriously, the story is worth a read. At one point, the principal seems to be coming on to one girl. The tables keep turning. It's like "Doubt" or something.

So, OK: It's a private school that wants to uphold a certain religious ethos. (The school is associated with the  same religious denomination as Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann. ) Should they be allowed to discriminate based on their shame-based ethos? I'll leave that for the courts to decide. (A lawyer for the girls hopes to take the case to the California Supreme Court.) But at a time when our school system is so embattled -- fingers crossed, economic stimulus plan -- and at an age when kids are discovering themselves and in the very place you might hope adults would be trying to sheperd them into an adult world, it's just a damn shame that a school would spend its valuable resources on this kind of witch hunt.

By Sarah Hepola

Sarah Hepola is the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir, "Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget."

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