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Gay-Straight Alliance Sues Indiana School Over Unequal Treatment

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A Gay-Straight Alliance in Indiana is suing its school and school district after the club says the school’s principal banned the group from publicizing its activities or fundraising for itself on campus.

The lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana on September 22, claims that Pendleton Heights High School has put unequal burdens on Pendleton Heights Gay-Straight Alliance, according to a press release. The school club provides social, emotional, and educational support to LGBTQ+ students and allies.

In court documents, the group said other clubs exist at the school that do not relate to the school’s curriculum. 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 Outdoor Adventure Club. Those clubs, according to the suit, are allowed to advertise and fundraise on school grounds.

“This group aims to create an environment that provides support to students, during a time that otherwise might be increasingly difficult for LGBTQ students,” Kit Malone, advocacy strategist at ACLU of Indiana, said. “The differential treatment aimed at Pendleton Heights Gay-Straight Alliance by administrators is unwarranted and these students must be treated in the same manner that all other student groups are treated.”

The ACLU of Indiana said that the treatment that the Pendleton Heights Gay-Straight Alliance compared to other student groups violates the Equal Access Act, the First Amendment, and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. 

The Equal Access Act makes secondary schools that receive federal funding provide the same access to “noncurricular” clubs as other student groups regardless of the content of the club’s meeting, reported The IndyStar.

“Students at Pendleton Heights High School may participate in non-curricular clubs recognized by the school,” Ken Falk, ACLU of Indiana's legal director, said. “By creating additional hurdles for Pendleton Heights Gay-Straight Alliance such as censoring the group’s promotions and prohibiting fundraising, the school is infringing on these students’ rights.” 

The lawsuit is asking the court to require the school and school district “to allow w the Pendleton Heights Gay-Straight Alliance to have the same access to school facilities and avenues of communication, including fundraising opportunities, provided to curricular and official clubs.”

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