ACLU of Kansas said the principal and driver had likely violated internal policy and federal law when they banned Dieker from the bus.
An eighth-grade student was suspended for stating that she was a lesbian. Izzy Dieker, then 13 years of age, was on the school bus when the bus driver overheard her say the words, "I'm a lesbian," to another student. Dieker earned a referral from the bus driver and was subsequently banned from rising the school bus by the principal on account of using “inappropriate language.” An internal investigation by the Kansas Association of School Boards into the incident found the bus driver, Kristi Gadino, and the principal of North Lyon County Elementary School, Corey Wiltz, guilty of sexual harassment against Dieke and violating internal policy and federal law, reported LGBTQ Nation.
The ACLU of Kansas has made the school district aware that the girl's constitutional rights had been impinged upon and said it would sue the school district if it didn't enforce strict punishments on the bus driver and the principal to ensure it doesn't happen again. The incident happened on January 27, when Gadino reprimanded Dieker for saying she's a lesbian. The driver made her move to the front of the bus as punishment. Principal Corey Wiltz then suspended Dieker on the basis of a report filed by Gadino, who falsely claimed that Dieker had used “inappropriate language” and had refused to comply with Gadino’s request to move.
BREAKING: Earlier this year, North Lyon County School District employees harassed Izzy Dieker, 14, because of her sexual orientation, violating Title IX.— ACLU of Kansas (@aclukansas) July 7, 2021
Yesterday we sent a letter on Izzy’s behalf to the superintendent, urging him to protect LGBTQ+ students.
Video footage from the bus showed that she did comply and also highlighted that she hadn't used inappropriate language as Gadino had claimed. Angela Stallbaumer, an attorney for the school board association, confirmed the same via a report filed based on the video. Gadino had reported that Dieker had said, “I’m a fucking lesbian.” The video footage showed that she didn't use profanity and had simply said, "I’m a lesbian." Stallbaumer's report also highlighted that other students had used “shockingly profane” curse words during the bus drive but Gadino hadn't reprimanded or reported any of them. She only focused her energy on Dieker using the words lesbian and told her that younger students at the front of the bus should not know what the word lesbian means. Principal Corey Wiltz reportedly sided with Gadino without having watched the video. He then watched the video and reinstated Dieker's bus privileges. He had also admitted to telling the 13-year-old's father that it was inappropriate for his daughter to use the word 'lesbian.'
ICYMI:— ACLU of Kansas (@aclukansas) July 10, 2021
Eighth-grader Izzy Dieker was singled out and punished after she told her friends, "I'm a lesbian" while riding the school bus.
We wrote a letter urging the school to take action to protect the Title IX rights of their LGBTQ+ students.https://t.co/eSKWVXNSwY
The ACLU has requested the school district to “take action… to avoid prolonged litigation” after the two employees were found to have violated both district policy and federal Title IX regulations. The ACLU sent the notice to the North Lyon County school district, USD 251. “The ACLU of Kansas has sent a letter… notifying officials there that a principal and bus driver likely violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and a student’s Constitutional rights on a school bus,” read a statement released by the organization. “The July 6 letter, addressed to Superintendent Robert Blair, detailed the January incident… in which Principal Corey Wiltz and bus driver Kristi Gadino discriminated against our 14-year-old client, Izzy Dieker, because she is a lesbian.”
ACLU said they had potentially violated Dieker’s First Amendment rights to free speech. They also added that a teacher had spoken to the principal backing Dieker, only to be told again that the use of the word lesbian was inappropriate. The teacher asked, “If she had said, ‘I’m straight,’ would we be here?” and Wiltz responded, “No, because it’s not inappropriate.”
“We urge USD 251 to take action in light of these findings to avoid prolonged litigation," said Sharon Brett, ACLU of Kansas Legal Director, in the statement. “We urge USD 251 to take action in light of these findings to avoid prolonged litigation. USD 251 must rectify the wrongs Izzy experienced and ensure that its policies, practices, and training will protect all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and gender-nonconforming students in USD 251 from discrimination and harassment. Izzy and all students like her, deserve better.” Dieker's family said that the incident wasn't investigated until it was reported in the local media in February. Dieker had a different bus driver for the rest of the year but the school's actions have failed the student, said Dieker's father, who added that the district has lost all our faith. “It made me upset to think that people go through this every day and also that kids are growing up thinking that it’s a horrible thing and they shouldn’t be talking about it at all,” said Dieker at the time.