Jamie Nabozny

Jamie Nabozny was born in 1975 in Ashland, Wisconsin, a small town on the south shore of Lake Superior. From a young age, he knew he was gay and confided in his family, but he didn’t come out to friends and classmates. Nonetheless, in middle school he was the object of physical violence and degradation, consistently bullied by students who called him names and tripped, shoved, kicked, and punched him. This abuse continued through high school, in spite of the fact that he reported it to teachers and administrators. They suggested he “stop acting so gay.” Eventually, the harassment got so bad that he ended up in the hospital, in need of abdominal surgery. He attempted suicide several times.

Nabozny moved to Minneapolis, where he discovered that his story was not unique. Many other gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth were enduring similar abuse, and he was determined to fight back. With the help of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, an LGBTQ+ legal organization, he filed a lawsuit against his school district and school officials. His 1996 suit, Nabozny v. Podlesny, eventually led to a landmark legal decision—the first judicial opinion in American history to find a public school accountable for allowing anti-gay abuse. The school officials were liable for Nabozny’s injuries. And for LGBTQ+ students across the United States, the decision means that they are entitled to a safe educational experience.

In 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for society’s most vulnerable, produced a documentary, “Bullied: A Student, a School and a Case That Made History,” based on Nabozny’s experiences. And today, Jamie Nabozny travels the country to share his story, speaking to students and teachers about the dangers of bullying and how they can stop it in their communities. He lives in Plymouth, Minnesota, with his husband, Bo, and their four sons.