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Indian River Central settles gay-bias suit; terms secret

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PHILADELPHIA — Indian River Central School District has settled a four-year-old federal lawsuit brought by former students who claimed they were subjected to anti-gay discrimination while attending school.

Former students Charles P. Pratt and his sister, Ashley E. Petranchuk, filed suit in U.S. District Court, Syracuse, in April 2009 alleging he was harassed, called names, physically assaulted and threatened for being gay before he dropped out of high school when he was 15 years old. He claimed district officials were aware of the problems but refused to help him. He and his sister also claimed administrators shot down his attempts to form a Gay-Straight Alliance at the high school.

In a ruling Friday, Judge Glenn T. Suddaby approved dismissal of the case by reason of a settlement. Terms of the settlement were not included in court documents. Superintendent James Kettrick referred questions about the agreement to the district’s attorney, Charles C. Spagnoli, East Syracuse, who similarly declined comment.

The suit was filed on Mr. Pratt’s and Miss Petranchuk’s behalf by Lambda Legal, New York City, a national organization that defends the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. In August 2010, the U.S. Justice Department petitioned the court and received permission to participate in the case as an “amicus curiae,” or friend of the court, to help decide the validity of the claims against the district.

Within two weeks of the lawsuit being filed in 2009, the district agreed to allow Miss Petranchuk to form a Gay-Straight Alliance, insisting that it never denied her request to form a club but said she would need a faculty adviser .The hurdle was cleared when the district recruited a faculty member to serve as adviser.

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