A U.S. District judge has granted an Indiana high school’s gay-straight alliance equal rights as other student clubs at the school, following a lawsuit the students filed with the school and their school district in September.
The judge granted the preliminary injunction on Wednesday, December 22.
Students at the school claim in their suit that Pendleton Heights High School has imposed an unequal burden on the gay-straight alliance by not recognizing it as an official school club. Their suit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana in September.
U.S. District Judge James Sweeney ordered the school to now allow the GSA to advertise, raise funds, and be listed in the school’s handbook — like an "official" club would be allowed to do — while the lawsuit continues, according to a release by ACLU Indiana.
“While this isn't the first time the ACLU of Indiana has had to take on a public school for treating a GSA group differently than other student-led organizations, we hope that public schools throughout the state will take notice and forgo future challenges by providing equal treatment to all student groups,” the group said in a statement.
“The ACLU of Indiana will continue to work to ensure that all schools in our state provide GSA groups and other student-led groups with the equal rights granted to them by the U.S. Constitution,” it added.
In court documents, the students said other clubs that are not strictly related to the school's curriculum are still allowed to be officially listed. These include SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions), E-gaming, Robotics, Best Buddies (students working with special needs students), Mat Maids (supporters of the wrestling team), and the school's Outdoor Adventure Club. Those clubs, according to the suit, are allowed to advertise and fundraise on school grounds.
The ACLU of Indiana said in September that the treatment of the Pendleton Heights' Gay-Straight Alliance compared to other student groups on campus violates the Equal Access Act, the First Amendment, and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.