What's at Stake
Kentucky high school anti-harassment training
In Kentucky, a federal judge ordered the Boyd County public schools to implement an anti-harassment training and policy as part of the settlement in a lawsuit the ACLU brought on behalf of students who wanted to form a gay-straight alliance (GSA) club at Boyd County High School. The school district agreed to implement the training last year after the judge found that there is a widespread problem with anti-gay harassment in the school, where students in an English class once stated that they needed to “take all the fucking faggots out in the back woods and kill them.”
In February of 2005, the district was sued by the Alliance Defense Fund, an Arizona-based national legal organization funded and run by over 30 conservative Christian churches and organizations, seeking to shut down the training and policy. The ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project and the ACLU of Kentucky represents five plaintiffs from the original case and one parent of a Boyd County student who have joined the school district in fighting the ADF lawsuit.
The trial court ruled that there is no religious right to stay out of school trainings aimed at reducing anti-gay harassment. A secondary issue in the lawsuit about the constitutionality of the school board’s anti-harassment policy, which has since been revised, was resolved in favor of the school as well. Questions regarding the constitutionality of the now-rescinded harassment policy were decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. While the ACLU agreed with ADF that the prior harassment policy was constitutionally flawed, the ACLU argued on appeal that schools can have anti-harassment policies that protect LGBT students from harassment while still respecting the constitutional rights of students opposed to homosexuality on religious (or other) grounds.
Status: On April 9, 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that because the school board had changed its anti-harassment policy, the plaintiff wasn’t eligible to seek damages for refraining from expressing his views while the old policy, which the ACLU believes was unconstitutional, was in effect.