FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ASHLAND, KY - The American Civil Liberties Union today asked a federal court to let several former students join a Kentucky school district in fighting a lawsuit aimed at shutting down a court-ordered anti-harassment training. The school district agreed to implement the training last year after a federal 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." The new lawsuit, brought by an anti-gay legal organization, claims that the training violates the free speech rights of students who are opposed to it.
"Anti-harassment training is designed to protect the lives of gay and lesbian students and ensure that they have access to an education. Simply telling students they shouldn't harass or attack others is not the same thing as telling them what they can think or say," said Lili Lutgens, a staff attorney at the ACLU of Kentucky.
The anti-harassment training is part of the settlement in a lawsuit the ACLU brought on behalf of several students who wanted to form a gay-straight alliance (GSA) club at Boyd County High School.
"As a champion of free speech and religious freedom, the ACLU believes that all Americans have an absolute right to exercise their religious beliefs and express their political opinions no matter what they are," said Sharon McGowan, a staff attorney with the ACLU's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. "But that doesn't mean that those beliefs and opinions can be used to justify harassing or abusing gay students, or to avoid being told that such harassment and abuse is unacceptable."
The new lawsuit in Boyd County was filed in February by the Alliance Defense Fund, an Arizona-based national legal organization funded and run by over 30 conservative Christian churches and organizations. In today's motion, the ACLU Lesbian & Gay Rights Project and the ACLU of Kentucky asked the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky to allow five plaintiffs from the original case to join the school district in fighting the ADF lawsuit.
The case is Timothy Allen Morrison, II, et al., v. Board of Education of Boyd County, Kentucky. The former GSA students are represented by James Esseks and Sharon McGowan of the ACLU's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, and Lili Lutgens and David Friedman of the ACLU of Kentucky.
More information on this case and the ACLU's earlier case in Boyd County can be found here: /cpredirect/12145.