A New York teen and his family seek state help amid a national tipping point on LGBTQ rights
A family living in Smithtown, New York, says their 14-year-old has been facing anti-LGBTQ bullying for years, and that the school district hasn't done enough.
Michael Coppola, 14, walked across the stage at his Long Island middle school’s auditorium as the opening passage for “Let It Go,” the standout track in “Frozen Jr.,” the school’s spring musical, began to play.
Michael, who uses the pronouns “he” and “they,” scored the lead role as Elsa, even though he said his music teacher had encouraged him to audition for the male roles.
During the April performance of “Frozen Jr.,” Michael walked up the steps of a raised platform for his big moment. He was nervous. He wore a dark blue dress, and as he began to sing the song’s chorus, everything worked out perfectly: He shed the midnight blue dress and revealed a bright blue, sparkling gown. Cheers erupted from the crowd, and Michael’s tension eased. He beamed as he finished the song.
The transformative moment combined with the song’s message to stay true to yourself struck Michael and his family as symbolic after what Michael has been through.
Michael Coppola sings "Let It Go" during a voice lesson.Julius Constantine Motal / NBC NewsMichael, an eighth grader at Great Hollow Middle School in Smithtown, New York, said his classmates first began to harass and bully him in elementary school over his perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. His parents, Diane and Mike Coppola, said students have called Michael anti-LGBTQ slurs, thrown objects at him, threatened him and physically abused him. Over the past year, things came to a head as Michael’s parents began a legal battle with the Smithtown Central School District about the bullying ahead of Michael when he started high school. They recently filed a complaint with the New York Division of Human Rights, alleging that the district had discriminated against Michael because of his sexual orientation and gender identity. In response to multiple requests for comment, Superintendent Mark Secaur said the district does not comment on pending litigation.