A Houston school district settled a federal lawsuit Wednesday in a deal that will allow a 17-year-old student to establish a gay acceptance club at her suburban high school. "We're going to be able to work toward spreading tolerance throughout the school," said the student, Marla Dukler, standing alongside her parents and attorney after the settlement was reached. The 1984 federal Equal Access Act ensures the right to form noncurricular clubs in schools that receive federal funding. Such clubs at Klein High School in Houston include those for Christian athletes, chess players, and anglers.
Dukler and 16 of her fellow classmates applied to establish a gay-straight alliance last October. The district said the club application presented the GSA as a support group to promote tolerance and nondiscrimination regardless of sexual orientation. After receiving no answer from the district, Dukler sued the Klein Independent School District and school officials. The settlement Wednesday allows for the club to be established while protecting a district policy that requires written parental permission for students to participate.
Dukler said all the applicants have received parental permission. She also said that about 200 students, many of them heterosexual, signed petitions supporting the club. Dukler said she has experienced harassment and taunting at school for being a lesbian and that she hopes the club will help alleviate such behavior. "We'll see some opposition," she said. "But by educating the students and faculty, it will be a lot easier for me to walk the hallways and for students coming after me to walk the hallways."