Originally published on Advocate.com July 22 2003 11:00 PM ET
A gay rights student group whose existence has drawn the ire of some parents and students at an eastern Kentucky high school will be allowed to meet after school hours under a new set of policies drawn up by the school board. The Boyd County school board introduced and voted on the new set of policies on Monday. They would allow the Gay-Straight Alliance and other noncurricular groups to meet after school. The policy limits access to school property during school hours to groups related to academics, an attempt by the board to comply with federal equal access laws. "No student groups or student organizations of any kind shall meet on school premises until after the regular school day unless participation results in academic credit for a school course or is in connection with activities permitted for excused absences," read a statement from the school board.
In April a federal judge ruled that the school district must treat the group no differently than the Bible club, whether the groups are reading announcements over the intercom or publishing meeting times in the campus newspaper. The board must vote on the new policies a second time before they are adopted, which could be as early as August 4. The school board said clubs and activities that would be allowed under the policies must be defined as "educational, curricular, extracurricular academic enrichment, or of an academic or athletic competitive nature which provide opportunities for higher-education scholarships." Athletics, including cheerleading, and academic teams would be included as school-sponsored activities under the policies. Other clubs and activities would be lumped in with a community use policy, which allows use of the school after hours.
The Gay-Straight Alliance currently is allowed to meet during school hours under a temporary injunction granted by U.S. district judge David Bunning. The club, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, sued the school district in January, alleging violations of federal and state law. The gay-straight group would fall into the noncurricular category, board member Teresa Cornette has said. The school's council will decide which other clubs fall outside the policy's definition of curricular groups, she said. The GSA's meetings at the school have upset some students and members of the community. In November more than 2,000 people gathered in a church parking lot to protest a council vote that permitted the group to meet at the high school. That month nearly half of the school's 990 students skipped school in protest of the decision to allow the group to meet.