12 year-old Lost Case against ‘Brokeback’ Teacher

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Chicago, IL - A jury found that showing the Oscar-winning movie Brokeback Mountain did not meet the “outrageousness threshold” for charging a teacher and a school board with “inflicting serious emotional distress” on 12-year-old Jessica Turner.


Turner and her grandparents filed suit against the substitute teacher who showed the film to her seventh grade math class on a free day. The case also named the Chicago Board of Education as co-defendants.

On the day Marnetta Buford showed the film to her class she reportedly told the students: “What happens in Ms. Buford’s class stays in Ms. Buford’s class.”

The legal news website OnPointNews.com revealed on Monday that a circuit court jury decided the case could not proceed and Buford was never called to the witness stand. The case was deemed on its surface to be without merit – whether Buford should have shown the film or not.

Turner, along with her grandparents Kenneth and Laverne Richardson were seeking $500,000 in damages and filing charges such as “false imprisonment” against the school. The incident took place in the May of 2006 and it was filed in May of 2007.

Another aspect of this case is the implied involvement of a group called Focus on the Family. They have been outlined by the Southern Poverty Law Center as having some similarities to anti-gay hate groups. News reports dating back to 2007 indicate that Focus on the Family was implicitly involved in structuring the lawsuit when their representative and judicial analyst, Bruce Hausknecht, offered quotes to the media at the same time or before the suit was filed.

Hausknecht referred to “the Chicago situation”, as being one of “government schools controlled by liberal educators” and spoke at length about parental rights. Turner’s grandfather, Kenneth Richardson also said to the media that he has a right to be “against this sort of thing”.

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