Teacher sued for showing R movie
Gay-themed film caused 8th grader stress, family says
By Mary Owen
Tribune staff reporter
Published May 13, 2007
A substitute teacher who showed an R-rated movie to 8th graders about two gay cowboys told students, "What happens in Ms. Buford's class stays in Ms. Buford's class," according to a lawsuit filed Friday.
A 12-year-old girl and her family filed the suit against the Chicago Board of Education after the teacher showed "Brokeback Mountain" to students at Ashburn Community Elementary School a year ago.
The student, Jessica Turner, said she suffered psychological distress after watching the movie, according to the suit. The movie, which stars Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as two cowboys who fall in love, includes love scenes between the two men and between the men and their wives.
"It is very important to me that my children not be exposed to this," said Turner's grandfather and guardian, Kenneth Richardson, by phone Saturday. "The teacher knew she was not supposed to do this. ... It's like I told the principal, she should have better control over her teachers."
The lawsuit, which seeks $500,000 in damages, was filed in Cook County Circuit Court. The suit also names Ashburn Principal Jewel Diaz and the substitute teacher, known only in the complaint as Ms. Buford.
Chicago Public Schools Spokesman Mike Vaughn declined to comment Saturday because he had not seen the lawsuit. Diaz could not be reached for comment.
According to the lawsuit, Buford was a substitute teacher in Turner's 8th-grade class on May 26, 2006. She told the class, "What happens in Ms. Buford's class stays in Ms. Buford's class" and asked a student to shut the classroom door.
Buford showed the video without permission from parents and guardians, the lawsuit states.
Richardson said his granddaughter was traumatized after watching the movie and told him, "They made me watch this bad movie." Richardson said he went to the school to speak to Buford, but she refused to do so without her union representative.
He said Diaz appeared "upset" when she learned that the teacher had showed the movie.
The grandfather deferred to his attorney when asked about the specifics of the "psychological treatment and counseling" that the lawsuit states Turner underwent as a result of watching the movie.
This isn't the first time Richardson has taken issue with material used in his children's classes. He said that in fall 2005, he complained to Diaz about reading material that included curse words.
"This was the last straw," Richardson said of the "Brokeback Mountain" screening. "I feel the lawsuit was necessary because of the warning I had already given them on the literature they were giving out to children to read. I told them it was against our faith."