ACLU sues high schools over GSAs
BY Advocate.com Editors
January 24 2003 12:00 AM ET
The American Civil Liberties Union is asking federal judges in Kentucky and Texas to force two school districts to allow students to form gay-straight alliances on campus.
The ACLU claims in lawsuits filed Wednesday that Boyd County High School in Cannonsburg, Ky., and Klein High School in Klein, Tex., violated students' rights, as outlined in the federal Equal Access Act and the First Amendment, by denying them permission to form the clubs.
"With these lawsuits we hope to put school officials on notice that we will no longer tolerate their dirty tactics and bureaucratic excuses to keep students from forming gay-straight alliances," said James Esseks, litigation director for the ACLU's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. "As these two cases so clearly show, there is a tremendous need for students to have a club where they can discuss how to deal with the antigay harassment they face."
The school board in Boyd County suspended all clubs in December in an effort to prevent a group of approximately 30 students from forming a gay-straight alliance. Seven students are listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed against the school board in U.S. district court in Lexington, Ky. The lawsuit claims that Boyd County school officials have permitted many clubs, including the Beta Club, drama club, student council, cheerleaders, and sports teams, to continue to meet since the school board's decision to suspend all clubs.
"School officials in Boyd County deserve an F for the dishonest and bigoted tactics they've taken to keep a group of students from talking about tolerance and acceptance," said Jeff Vessels, executive director of the ACLU of Kentucky. "It's shameful that the students have had to be the responsible ones and teach the educators about freedom and equality."
In the Texas case, the ACLU says that school officials changed requirements for school clubs after students at the high school submitted their application to form a gay-straight alliance in September. The students resubmitted their application in adherence to the new rules, but with the school year more than half over, the school has still not told the students if they will be allowed to meet.
"Officials at Klein High School have been sitting on the students' application far too long," said David George, an ACLU attorney in Texas. "It's time for the school to follow the law or face the consequences in court."