ACLU Files Suit Over Indiana School’s Refusal to Allow GSA Club

ACLU Files Suit Over Indiana School’s Refusal to Allow GSA Club December 26, 2014

Here’s yet another school that needs to be taught a lesson in equality. North Putnam High School near Indianapolis is refusing to allow students to form a Gay-Straight Alliance and the ACLU has filed a federal lawsuit over it, which they will quickly win in summary judgment.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Indiana filed a lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of three students at North Putnam High School who have been denied the right to form a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) club during non-instructional time at school.

The lawsuit, also brought on behalf of the GSA, claims the school’s denial violates both federal law and the U.S. Constitution…

The school, which allows other non-school-sponsored clubs and activities to meet, has denied recognition of the GSA club for more than a year. The students followed all the school’s required procedures outlined in its student handbook to establish the club, including securing a faculty member to supervise the group, the lawsuit states.

On Nov. 20, the North Putnam School Board voted to bar the club from forming, despite the fact that other clubs are not made to pass a school board vote.

The lawsuit alleges the school’s denial of the GSA club violates students’ First Amendment rights and the federal Equal Access Act. The students are seeking to have their application for the club approved and to allow it all rights similar to those of other extracurricular clubs.

“The law is clear in this matter,” ACLU of Indiana legal director Ken Falk said. “There is no excuse for the school district’s intransigence, which is causing real harm to its students.”

Falk is right, the Equal Access Act is crystal clear on this. The school is going to lose, probably before it even goes to trial. They better hope they lose fast because the longer it goes on, the more they’re going to have to pay in legal fees. Why do school boards tend to be inhabited by so many idiots? Because the Christian right has put a huge focus on electing wingnuts to local school boards.

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  • GSAs were a major political bone of contention here in Alberta recently. A Liberal MLA (for my riding, I’m happy to say) submitted a bill that would make all schools in the province to allow students to form GSAs. The governing “Progressive” Conservatives went out of their way to ensure that the bill was scuttled and one of the parliamentary tricks they used was submitting their own bill that was a toothless, shallow one that would have had students have to go through the time and expense of taking their schools to court if they wanted to form a GSA.

    The whole thing made the Tories look really, really bad, but it’s not going to hurt them as they’ve been in power in this province for over four decades and a little thing like the rights of minority students isn’t going cause a long overdue regime change.

  • dugglebogey

    So the thinking is “if we don’t allow students to have a club that includes homosexuals, then none of the students will be homosexual?”

    And these people are educators.


  • John Pieret

    Why do school boards tend to be inhabited by so many idiots?

    This bunch seems to be one step up the idiot ladder from most. Despite a fairly extensive search, I couldn’t find any record, even in the ACLU’s complaint, of statements by the opponents (out of 7 board members, 3 voted against and one abstained, the latter amounting to a no vote as ties defeat a motion) setting forth their objections to the club, . There were none of the usual proclamations of god and religion or the imminent fall of western civilization that we’ve come to know and love. Not that it is going to help them in the end but it is somewhat surprising nonetheless.

  • Erp

    The school board does have some intelligent people on it. Of the seven members, three voted for the club and three voted no while one abstained which caused the measure to fail. I’m not sure their lawyer told them they would be running into a legal slam dunk though he did tell them a split vote would cause the club not to be formed.

    So on November 20

    With board members Travis Lambermont, secretary Darrel Wiatt and board president Jill Summerlot voting in favor of the club; and Oliver Haste, John Hays and Jim Bowling voting in opposition to the club; the deciding vote was placed upon board vice president Mark Hoke.

    Looking at earlier board minutes I would check what their anti-harassment policy states also (they were fussing over it but not giving the exact wording being discussed). Parents should also check out whatever “Shared Hope International” is sharing with the students (the group is a anti-sex trafficking group that is/was doing a presentation to middle schoolers [according to the Sept. 18, 2014 minutes, all to the good] but it is also heavily evangelical Christian).

  • davidworthington

    @ #2–“And these people are educators.” No, they are the school board, an elected position that has nothing to do with being an educator.

    The students at N. Put have been very good, something like half of them have signed a petition in support of the club, and (I live in the area) from what I can gather faculty are also in support. In addition there is considerable community support for the student club.

    For years conservatives have been taking control of local elective office and this is the kind of outcome we can expect. This is an extremely conservative and poor area of Indiana–as much of the state is–and we have a long history of electing knee-jerk Republicans, we didn’t need the tea-party for this, but we have it in large numbers too. I suspect that when the lawyers get the ACLU suit and view the precedent cases, and they begin to realize the financial costs, the school board will back down. To me troubling aspects of the entire issue include: 1) that the school board has to approve all student clubs, which means the educators don’t control them (this board has never before declined creation of a student club) 2) the board has been delaying a decision on this club for almost a year, they’ve utilized delaying tactics and really just futzed around with it, hoping it would go away.