South Carolina

4th-grader’s LGBT essay rejected by principal, who called it unacceptable, lawsuit says

A lawsuit says a principal made a fourth-grade student change her essay about LGBT issues.
A lawsuit says a principal made a fourth-grade student change her essay about LGBT issues. Tri-City Herald

When a fourth-grade student wrote an essay for school on LGBT rights, the principal at the South Carolina elementary school forced her to do a new essay, saying the topic “would create a undesirable situation at the school,” according to a lawsuit filed this week in federal court.

The principal forced the 10-year-old girl to change her essay to be about bullying, according to the lawsuit. The principal said the essay, meant to be combined with others from the class into a booklet would “make other parents upset,” the court filing states.

The principal told the girl’s mom the topic “was ‘not acceptable’ and that it was ‘not age-appropriate to discuss transgenders, lesbians and drag queens outside of the home,’” the suit says.

The fourth grader, listed in the suit only by her initials, and her mom Hannah Robinson, sued the Spartanburg County School District No. 6, Anderson Mill Elementary School and Principal Elizabeth Foster, saying they violated the student’s First Amendment right to free speech and caused both mother and daughter emotional distress.

School district spokeswoman Cynthia Robinson, in a written statement to McClatchy, said, “Based on the fact that this is a legal matter we are limited with the amount of information we can release. However, we do consider the claims in this lawsuit to be inaccurate.”

“We are serious about treating every child with kindness, respect, and without discrimination,” Robinson said.

The lawsuit says the girl’s “maternal grandfather (Plaintiff Hannah Robertson’s father) is a homosexual active in the LGBTQ community, both Plaintiffs are proud advocates of LGBTQ rights.” The 4th fourth-grade teacher assigned students to write a short essay “to society,” according to the suit.

The girl wrote, in part, “I don’t know if you know this but peoples view on Tran’s genders is an issue. People think that men should not drees like a women, and saying mean things. They think that they are choosing the wrong thing in life. In the world people can choose who they want,” the essay read, according to a copy in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says the principal harassed the girl’s mother. The principal said, according to the suit, “due to the type of school this is, the people that work here and the students and families of the students that go here, the topic would be disagreeable.”

The fourth grader is now afraid of her principal, the lawsuit says.

The plaintiffs in the suit are seeking to “recover compensatory damages for emotional pain and suffering.”

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Charles Duncan covers what’s happening right now across North and South Carolina, from breaking news to fun or interesting stories from across the region. He holds degrees from N.C. State University and Duke and lives two blocks from the ocean in Myrtle Beach.