December 14, 2005

L.A. girl, 13, fights school uniform in court

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A 13-year-old Los Angeles girl who
refuses to wear a school uniform has taken her fight to court,
charging that school officials violated her civil rights by
demanding she wear the blue skirt and white blouse.

Duan'ne Land claims that she has been harassed, humiliated
and even "battered" by staff at Horace Mann Middle School
despite a Los Angeles Unified School District policy that
allows students to opt out of wearing a uniform.

"From time to time I was afraid of going to school because
of what was going to happen next," Land told a Los Angeles
Superior Court jury during her testimony on Tuesday. "But later
on there was less messing with me."

Land said that when she gave an administrator a note from
her grandfather asking to be excused from wearing a uniform the
man "wadded it up and threw it on the ground." She said another
staff member once grabbed her by the arm and yanked her into an
office for wearing street clothes.

The teen's lawsuit seeks to bar the school from
disciplining her over the uniform issue, along with unspecified
monetary damages for violation of her civil rights, infliction
of emotional distress and battery.

Lawyers for the district concede that students have the
right to decline a uniform, but say Land never made it clear
that she was doing so and was not mistreated. They say she was
never kept out of school or sent home.

During opening statements in the trial on Tuesday, Land's
lawyer said that after the girl stopped wearing her uniform,
staff members threatened to suspend her, refused to allow her
picture to be taken for the yearbook and barred her from a
Valentine's Day dance.

According to the lawsuit, administrators also frequently
detained her at the principal's office and twice stood her
against a wall and scolded her.

"The wrongdoing alleged herein has interfered with
plaintiff's education and denied her civil rights in violation
of the State Education Code, state Constitution, and the
Constitution of the United States," the lawsuit charges.

The trial, which continued on Wednesday with testimony
expected from the school principal, was scheduled to last five