Testimony given in Boyd County, Ky., case

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com March 20 2003 12:00 AM ET

In arguments held in federal court Tuesday and Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union is asking a federal judge to order that all clubs at Kentucky's Boyd County High School, including the Gay-Straight Alliance, be allowed to meet. The ACLU is arguing that the Boyd County school board's decision to ban all clubs is an unconstitutional attempt to shut out students who sought to form the GSA and violates federal and state law.

"Public schools are bound by law to treat all clubs equally," said Tamara Lange, staff attorney for the ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. "By banning all clubs and then letting a handful of the ones they favor get around that ban, Boyd County High School seems to think it's above the law. It isn't, and we're confident that the judge will see that."

The ACLU presented testimony from the principal as well as students and the faculty adviser of the GSA that other clubs at the school--including the drama club, student council, and cheerleading and sports teams--have continued to meet in violation of the school's supposed suspension of all school
clubs.

The hearing is expected to conclude Wednesday with testimony from school officials claiming that disruption at the school by people objecting to the GSA justifies suspending the club. "Under the First Amendment, schools can't deny students' rights to free speech just because a bunch of other people don't like what they're saying, no matter how vocal the opposition is," said Jeff Vessels, executive
director of the ACLU of Kentucky. "Blocking the GSA because some students and parents are against it unfairly penalizes the GSA members for peacefully expressing their opinions and doesn't penalize the people who are actually disrupting the educational process."