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Boy's talk of his gay mothers sets off furor in Louisiana
( 2003-12-04 16:44) (Agencies)

7-year-old Louisiana boy was disciplined by his elementary school for telling a second-grade classmate that he had two mothers and explaining that gay meant "when a girl likes a girl," the American Civil Liberties Union says.

The boy, Marcus McLaurin, was referred to the school's behavior clinic, where he was ordered to write the sentence "I will never say the word `gay' in school again" over and over, the civil liberties group said.

The group has written to the Ernest Gallet Elementary School in Youngsville, La., demanding that it remove all mention of the incident from Marcus's record, refrain from restricting his speech in the future, and apologize to him and his mother.

"The school called me the day it happened and said Marcus was in trouble for using foul language, and behaving inappropriately," the boy's biological mother, Sharon Huff, said. "I didn't know what he'd said because the assistant principal said he didn't feel comfortable repeating it over the phone. He told me Marcus would bring home a note. I was imagining something horrible. But when Marcus came home with the note, all it said was that he'd told another child I was gay, and explained what gay meant."

Administrators at the school in Youngsville, 57 miles southwest of Baton Rouge, did not return calls. But Dr. H. James Easton, the superintendent of the Lafayette Parish School System, released a statement yesterday disputing the A.C.L.U. account and saying the school's actions had nothing to do with the issue of sexual orientation.

"I have concluded," he said, "that the discipline was related to ordinary student disturbances, which were hindering the classroom learning process and which were addressed in an appropriate fashion by the teacher and school administrator."

He added, "The student was not belittled or embarrassed and this entire matter was reported based on a lack of accurate information."

Ms. Huff, who moved to Louisiana six months ago to be with her partner, Heather Manley, said Marcus had not previously faced any problem about having two mothers and seemed withdrawn after the Nov. 11 incident at school.

"To tell a 7-year-old boy that he can't talk about his family not only makes that child feel confused and hurt, it violates his constitutional right to free speech and equal treatment," said Ken Choe, a lawyer for American Civil Liberties Lesbian and Gay Rights Project who is handling the matter.

The incident occurred when the class was lined up for recess and a classmate asked Marcus about his mother and father. Marcus responded that he had two mothers, not a mother and father. When the other child asked why, Marcus told him that it was because his mother was gay. The other child then asked what that meant, and Marcus explained, "Gay is when a girl likes another girl."

According to the A.C.L.U. account, Marcus's teacher scolded him in front of his classmates, told him that "gay" is a bad word he should not say in school, and then sent him to the principal's office.

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