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freedom from persecution
Bullying: language, literature and life
Jamie Nabozny grew up in Ashland, Wisconsin, a small town located on the south shore of Lake Superior. By the time Jamie was in middle school, he found himself the target of physical violence and degrading acts by classmates. When Jamie turned to school officials for help, he was told to expect abuse for his sexual orientation and to stop “acting so gay.” As the attacks continued and school staff looked on with indifference, Jamie lost hope and moved to Minneapolis. Free at last from much of the verbal and physical violence that had dominated his young life, Nabozny realized that he was not alone. Similar acts of abuse were happening to students across the country. Jamie decided to take a stand for his rights and the rights of his fellow students. In 1995, he took legal action against his middle school where he had been so badly beaten by his classmates that he required abdominal surgery to undo the damage. Although his first attempt at legal action was unsuccessful, his case drew the attention of Lambda Legal, a civil-rights oriented law firm. With their help, Jamie took his case to a federal appeals court for a second trial. His new trial issued the first judicial opinion in American history to find a public school accountable for allowing anti-gay abuse, and the school officials liable for Jamie’s injuries. This landmark decision entitled students across the United States to a safe educational experience, regardless of their sexual identity. Today Jamie travels the country speaking to students and teachers about the dangers of bullying and how they can stop it in their schools and communities. Jamie’s story has been turned into a short documentary “Bullied” produced by The Southern Poverty Law Center in 2011.