Carolyn Wagner, the feisty Fayetteville mother whose struggle to stop gay and lesbian bullying in schools resulted in a landmark legal agreement, has died in Tulsa after a long struggle with cancer, liver failure and hepatitis she acquired through a blood transfusion.
Wagner filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights of the United States Department of Education in 1997, saying that her son William had endured years of homophobic harassment and bullying while a student in the Fayetteville School District, resulting in a broken nose and other injuries. Wagner and her son claimed school officials and teachers turned a blind eye to the abuse. In 1998, the OCR reached an agreement with Fayetteville School District which forced both OCR and the school district to recognize the harassment of gays and lesbians as falling under Title IX, which prohibits sexual harassment and discrimination. It was the first case in which Title IX was deemed to cover gay and lesbian bullying.
Wagner’s victory in her struggle to protect her son is considered a milestone in the gay and lesbian community — so much so that it has been immortalized in song.
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