ACLU files lawsuit after Madera County school removes students' LGBTQ related senior quotes from yearbook

Thursday, March 7, 2019
ACLU files lawsuit after school removes students' senior quotes from yearbook
Two teens are fighting the Chawaknakee Unified School District after the school removed their senior quotes from the yearbook claiming they were "politically divisive."

MADERA COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Choosing the perfect yearbook quote is a rite of passage for every high school graduate.

"My quote is: if Harry Potter has taught us anything, it's that no one deserves to live in a closet. What they don't know can't hurt them," for 17-year-old Mika Garaffa, the words embody more than just her identity.

She's fighting the Chawanakee Unified School District to keep her legacy.

"I was livid, I was so upset and hurt. like this is my family and they are trying to deny me of being me," Garaffa said.

Back in January, Mika and a fellow senior found out their quotes celebrating their LGBTQ identities were removed.

They pressed the Minarets High School staff for answers and finally received a response that the statements were too "politically divisive" and would cause "unnecessary issues."

"It hurt because we try so hard to teach our kids not to be political, not be so discriminatory like you are supposed to accept all the students for who they are," Garaffa said.

The two teenagers have filed a lawsuit with the help of the ACLU.

Attorney Abre' Connor says the school is in clear violation of their free speech rights.

"In 2019 a student's identity is not divisive, is not politically divisive. And school districts should be on notice that they can't discriminate," Conner said.

We reached out to the Chawanakee Unified but the district declined to comment.

"To be shut down kind of ruined the whole year," Garaffa said.

For Mika, her legacy has become much more than a yearbook quote.