Kentucky school ordered to allow GSA

BY Advocate.com Editors

April 19 2003 12:00 AM ET

A federal court on Friday ordered Boyd County High School in Boyd County, Ky., which
shut down all school clubs in December in an attempt to quell community debate over the school's Gay Straight Alliance, to let the GSA as well as all other clubs start meeting again. "As the judge noted, antigay sentiment is rampant at this school," said David Friedman, general counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky. "He rightfully recognized that the GSA serves the public interest by working to foster tolerance in a community that clearly needs it."

In his ruling Judge David Bunning, of the U.S. district court for the eastern district of Kentucky, noted several examples of harassment in the school, including students in an English class stating that they "needed to take all the fucking faggots out in the back woods and kill them."

In hearings held last month the ACLU asked the court for an injunction to end the Boyd County board of education's ban on all clubs in the district. The ACLU argued that the ban is an unconstitutional attempt to shut out students who sought to form the GSA and violates federal and state law. School officials had claimed that disruption at the school by people objecting to the GSA justifies suspending the club.

"The judge here recognized that schools can't silence students who hold unpopular views, even if those views cause others to react disruptively," said Tamara Lange, a staff attorney for the ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. "Instead, the school must punish students who are disruptive."

In a 47-page opinion, Bunning wrote that "most students at BCHS are likely to benefit from a preliminary injunction because all other noncurriculum-related student activities are likely to be reinstated when the GSA Club is reinstated. This would include one or more religion- or
community service-based clubs."

The suit was heard in Ashland, Ky., by the United States district court of the eastern district of Kentucky.

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