Opponents of Kentucky county GSA ban all school clubs

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com December 27 2002 12:00 AM ET

The Boyd County, Ky., board of education has decided to ban all school clubs in the district in an effort to shut down a recently formed gay-straight alliance in the high school, according to a Thursday press release from the American Civil Liberties Union.

"It's truly shameful that the school board has decided to sacrifice the needs of all its students rather than permit this group of students to meet to address issues of tolerance and diversity," said James Esseks, litigation director at the ACLU's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. "This decision is frightfully similar to the days when many cities chose to shut down public swimming pools rather than let African-Americans use them."

In October a decision-making council that decides all issues related to school clubs approved the application by a group of about 20 students to form the GSA. The students had been urging the school to allow the GSA since February 2001. It was only after the ACLU sent a letter to the school explaining that the federal Equal Access Act required the school to treat all noncurricular clubs equally that the council reversed its position and permitted the GSA. Local ministers then launched an appeal of the decision that eventually prompted today's decision by the board.

"The board's decision does a disservice to the entire community," said Jeff Vessels, executive director of the ACLU of Kentucky. "This ban will hurt all of Boyd County's students' chances of getting accepted to college. School clubs play a key role in many college admissions policies. This is a textbook case of cutting off your nose to spite your face."