ACLU Tells School Council It Must Allow Gay-Straight Alliance

September 19, 2002
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ASHLAND, KY -- After two denials of an application to form a Gay-Straight Alliance, the American Civil Liberties Union has sent a letter to officials at Boyd County High School demanding that they approve creation of the club. 

The federal Equal Access Act requires schools to treat GSAs as they would any other school group, according to the letter sent Thursday to the Site Based Decision Making Council by the Lesbian and Gay Rights Project of the ACLU and the ACLU of Kentucky. 

The GSA first applied for official recognition last March, but the council denied its application, telling the group's advisor that it was too late in the school year to start a new student organization. But when the GSA applied again earlier this month, the application was again turned down. This time the denial came with no official explanation, although one member of the council was quoted in a local newspaper as saying the club was unnecessary because of the prior existence of the Human Rights Club, an organization with a broader human rights focus. 

""Denying the GSA's right to exist with the excuse that the school already has a Human Rights Club is simply bogus,"" said James Esseks, litigation director for the Lesbian and Gay Rights Project of the ACLU. ""According to federal law, the school doesn't get to make that decision for its students,"" he added, ""and if the students want to start a GSA at a public school, they have every legal right to do so."" 

Federal courts have repeatedly ruled in favor of GSAs where schools tried to block their formation, upholding students' right to form the groups in Salt Lake City, Utah, Orange, California, and just last month in Franklin Township, Indiana. 

""This is a matter of what's fair and what's lawful,"" noted Jeff Vessels, executive director of the ACLU of Kentucky. ""It is only fair that this group of students be treated the same as any other. And federal courts have ruled in favor of GSAs every time. We hope once Boyd County High School officials understand that what they are doing here is illegal, they will abide by the law and let these students form their club.""

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