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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, March 3, 2006

Ruling protects gays at youth facility

By Ken Kobayashi
Advertiser Courts Writer

State officials and guards at the Hawai'i Youth Correctional Facility cannot abuse, harass or unfairly treat juvenile wards based on their sexual orientation, a federal judge ruled yesterday.

State personnel also must prevent other wards at the facility from abusing and harassing any lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered juveniles, U.S. District Judge Michael Seabright ordered.

Seabright will appoint a consultant to assist the state officials in promptly developing policies and procedures for the state employees to safeguard the youths.

State Attorney General Mark Bennett said he has no current plans to appeal the decision.

"We are going to take steps to make sure that all the state employees who work at the HYCF are familiar with the terms of the order and its requirements," Bennett said. "And we are going to do everything possible to make certain that the state complies with the order."

Seabright issued his order this week, spelling out his previous ruling last month calling for a halt to the harassment at the troubled Kailua facility, the state's only youth correctional institution for juvenile offenders.

HYCF also must improve conditions within three years as a result of the settlement of a Justice Department lawsuit alleging serious violation of constitutional rights of the juveniles at the facility.

Seabright's ruling is the result of a separate lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai'i alleging that juveniles who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered have been mistreated based on their sexual orientation.

On Feb. 7, he ruled in favor of the ACLU, which argued that a court order was necessary to halt the abuse, but Seabright wanted to make sure his order yesterday didn't conflict with the Justice Department settlement.

In his six-page order issued Wednesday, Seabright ruled that HYCF officials and workers:

  • Should not discriminate against the youths based on their sexual orientation and should discipline employees who violate the order.

  • Should not isolate those youths except for emergencies to protect them from harassment and abuse.

  • Should not use in their employment derogatory terms to convey hatred or contempt toward the juveniles based on their sexual orientation, and should halt other wards from using such terms.

  • Should develop policies and practices for the administration and staff to halt discrimination and harassment against the youths.

  • Should investigate and respond to complaints by the juveniles who allege discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation.

    Within 30 days of the appointment, the consultant must submit to the court a time line for the development of the policies to protect the juveniles and the training for HYCF workers on those procedures.

    Reach Ken Kobayashi at kkobayashi@honoluluadvertiser.com.