A student gay rights group and Boyd County, Ky., school officials have broken off talks regarding whether the group can meet on school grounds. Weeks of discussion and an eight-hour closed-door meeting with federal magistrate judge Peggy Patterson ended Monday with no agreement. A lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, Tamara Lange, did not rule out further mediation but said its case will continue. The ACLU sued the school district on behalf of the Gay-Straight Alliance of Boyd County High School after it was barred from meeting at the school. School officials and their lawyers declined comment on the negotiations.
U.S. district judge David Bunning had ordered both sides to enter into mediation to settle the group's lawsuit against the district. Representatives of the board and the alliance will meet separately Wednesday with Bunning. "We didn't settle the case, and the main reason is a disagreement over the law," Lange said. "In essence it's the same disagreement we've had since the beginning of the case."
The suit claims that the school violated the federal Equal Access Act by barring the alliance from meeting on school grounds while allowing other noncurricular groups to do so. Twice last year the high school's teacher-parent council denied the gay-straight group permission to meet on school grounds. The ACLU sent a letter to the council saying that under federal law, the alliance must be allowed to use school facilities if other noncurricular groups have access. In October the council voted to let the group meet at school. But in December the education board suspended all noncurricular clubs. The suit also said the district was violating the students' constitutional rights as well as the Kentucky Education Reform Act by overturning the October decision. The ACLU filed its lawsuit in January. In April, Bunning ordered the district to let the students meet while the suit is pending. Lange said that injunction remains in place.