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Kerry Pacer's
fight for gay club goes to court

Kerry Pacer's
fight for gay club goes to court

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A case brought by Georgia's Kerry Pacer seeking recognition for a gay student club at her former high school went before a state judge on Monday.

A case brought by Georgia high school student and Advocate 2005 Person of the Year Kerry Pacer seeking recognition for her gay student club went before a state judge on Monday. In Gainesville district court judge William O'Kelley listened as Pacer, who is being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, presented evidence alleging that discrimination occurred against PRIDE, the gay-straight alliance she formed at White County High School in Cleveland, Ga.

According to a report by the Web site Access North Georgia, White County principal Brian Dorsey testified that he decided no noncurricular clubs would meet on campus. But ACLU attorneys presented morning bulletins as evidence that those clubs did meet and announcements were made on the public address system.

The lawsuit claims that White County school officials violated the Federal Equal Access Act during the 2005-2006 school year by barring PRIDE--Peers Rising In Diversity Education--from meeting on campus while allowing other noncurricular clubs to do so. A bench trial will be held before a U.S. district court judge in Atlanta.

"The law is crystal clear about how public schools have to treat student clubs: they have to treat them equally regardless of their viewpoint," said Beth Littrell, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Georgia who represents several members of PRIDE and their parents. "White County High School has been trying to get around that by saying it has banned all clubs, when in reality it's been playing favorites and letting clubs that administrators like continue to meet. Students at White County High School have a right to decide for themselves which clubs they want to participate in, and that right has been trampled by the school."

"All we're asking for is to be treated the same as all the other clubs that the school has been allowing to meet." said Charlene Hammersen, a 17-year-old lesbian who is one of the founding members of PRIDE. "Harassment and violence are pretty bad at our school, and we think having a gay-straight alliance would help make our school a safer place. I don't understand why a club dedicated to making the school safer for everyone doesn't get to meet when clubs like the dance team and student council do."

Pacer graduated high school this year and will be attending college in the fall. But she said she is committed to helping win the right for the gay-straight alliance to meet on campus at White County. (The Advocate)

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