Eastern High School Principal violates Human Rights Act and DCPS policies
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Eastern High School Principal violates Human Rights Act and DCPS policies

Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, DC
PO Box 75265
Washington, DC 20013

October 16, 2002

Mr. Louis Sheppard
Eastern Senior High School
1700 East Capitol Street, N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20003-1622

Dear Mr. Sheppard:

We have recently learned of problems that one of the special education teachers assigned to your school, Mr. Kevin Frank, has allegedly experienced in his dealings with you in recent weeks.

Mr. Frank tells us he approached you several weeks ago about serving as the official adviser for the school's Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), which had been established during the last school year, but was startled when you tried to veto the group's continuation. Had you persisted in this stance, you would have been in gross violation of both the federal Equal Access Act and the D.C. Human Rights Act of 1977, which bars discrimination against students on the basis of sexual orientation.

We understand that you have since relented and will allow the GSA to continue, but you have arbitrarily barred Mr. Frank from serving as its adviser. If true, this would be an act of illegal retaliation by preventing him from aiding students in the exercise or enjoyment of their rights protected under the Human Rights Act.

We have been informed that you had already threatened to terminate Mr. Frank's employment if he persisted in his efforts to maintain the GSA. Any such threat would violate the D.C. Human Rights Act's protections for gay and lesbian teachers, and would also violate the law's prohibition against threats of retaliation for exercising those rights. Such a threat would also violate the Board of Education's ban on anti-gay discrimination, the first such ban in this country, which dates back to May 1972. We should know; it was our first major victory after we were founded in April 1971.

Mr. Frank and another teacher have also told us that you have done nothing to publicize the Board of Education's new anti-harassment guidelines approved earlier this year. For your information, the D.C. Human Rights Amendment Act of 2002 officially took effect on October 1 of this year, barring harassment in education on the basis of any of the grounds specified in the Human Rights Act of 1977 (including sexual orientation).

Mr. Frank further reports that you made an unannounced visit to one of his special education classes at Eastern, in violation of the explicit provisions of the teachers' contract.

If any of these charges are found to be true, we will press for your immediate dismissal from your position for cause.

We urge you to rectify all these problems immediately. Should a pattern of discrimination persist, you will be buried under an avalanche of official investigations and complaints filed with every office with appropriate jurisdiction.

We understand you were brought to our city with the express sponsorship of Superintendent Vance. You will constitute a major embarrassment to him personally and to the entire DCPS system if these allegations are not promptly resolved to our satisfaction.

We have been fighting homophobia in the District of Columbia with great success for more than three decades. We know the law, in large part because we helped to write it. So let us instruct you very firmly: Homophobia in the DCPS will not stand.


Bob Summersgill

cc: All members of the Board of Education
Mayor Anthony Williams
All members of the Council of the District of Columbia
Superintendent Vance
Deputy Superintendent Ralph Neal
James Baxley, Deputy General Counsel, DCPS

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