Gay Dads Sue NYC Schools That Blamed Their Son for Homophobic Abuse

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday August 2, 2021

Stock image
Stock image  (Source:Getty Images)

Two fathers have brought suit against the NYC school system, claiming that school administrators not only did nothing to stop the homophobic bullying their son endured, they also blamed the child for the attacks he suffered, Business Insider reports.

The boy's classmates "spent two years relentlessly taunting the victim as a 'fa—t ass,' and 'bitch,' slammed him for 'acting like a girl' and 'told him that he would be damned to hell by God because of his 'lifestyle,'" the suit alleges, according to the New York Post.

Business Insider recounted how "Daniel" (a pseudonym provided to protect the child), the survivor of a brain tumor, had been adopted by Jason Cianciotto and his husband after being in the foster care system since the age of seven. Per reports, the tumor, and his early life experiences in a family troubled by addiction and domestic abuse, had left Daniel with "PTSD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and epilepsy, as well as several learning disabilities." The boy was also said to have been "repeatedly abandoned by foster parents."

When Daniel told his new "forever family" that he was gay, the dads decided to place him in a school where they thought he would be accepted and be able to pursue his education safely, so they enrolled him in the Albert Shanker School for the Visual Performing Arts in 2017, when Daniel was in the sixth grade.

The suit alleges, however, that what happened instead was a two-year nightmare of anti-LGBTQ abuse, physical attacks, and eventually, talks of suicide by the youth — with school administrators suggesting that the boy had brought the bullying on himself.

"We were shocked and horrified," Cianciotto told the press when a school administrator opined that if Daniel "just stopped talking about his sexual orientation or that he was getting adopted by two gay dads, then it wouldn't be a problem."

Equally as distressing, the suit claims, was the school administration's stance that Daniel was making up stories about being bullied, and an excuse for the faith-based bigotry their son encountered — like being told he was "going to hell" — that characterized such abuse as a "difference of opinion."

The suit also alleges that school administrators broke the law.

"Under New York State's Dignity for All Students Act, the Board of Education mandates that school employees who witness or learn about harassment, bullying, or discrimination must report it to administrators," Business Insider detailed, adding that "substantiated" reports "must then be investigated and appropriate action must be taken to remedy them."

Now, the family is "suing the New York City Department of Education (DoE), the Board of Education (BoE) for New York City Public Schools, and several employees" of the school, Business Insider detailed.

A spokesperson for the New York City Department of Education responded to the outlet's queries by stating, per the article: "These allegations are deeply troubling and there is absolutely zero tolerance for bullying or harassment of any kind in our schools."

Daniel is 14 now and attends a different school, having been taken out of Albert Shanker and enrolled elsewhere, and, as Cianciotto told Business Insider: "The difference is night and day."

But the family told the media they intend on achieving justice.

"We want to do everything we can to make sure that other kids like my son don't experience this kind of bullying," Cianciotto said.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.