August 29, 2008

Says All Clubs Must Have Equal Access to School Facilities and Resources

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: media@aclu.org

MINNEAPOLIS – Finding that school officials violated federal law in limiting access for a gay rights club, a federal appeals court today issued a permanent injunction that orders Osseo Area Schools to let the club have the same access to school facilities and resources as all other clubs. The ruling came as the result of a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota today on behalf of Straights and Gays for Equality (SAGE), a student club at Maple Grove High School. 

"The federal Equal Access Act makes it crystal clear that schools can't pick and choose how they treat clubs based on which students' views they like and which ones they don't," said Chuck Samuelson, Executive Director of the ACLU of Minnesota. "These students wanted nothing more than a place to talk about how to stop anti-gay harassment and discrimination at their school and in the community. That's something schools should welcome, rather than waste taxpayer money and break the law to stop."

The ACLU filed the federal lawsuit on behalf of SAGE in 2005 after the school restricted the club's access to meeting space and the school's public address system while granting those things to other non-curricular clubs like the "Spirit Council" and the synchronized swimming team. According to the Equal Access Act, schools must grant an equal level of access to school facilities and resources to all non-curricular clubs. Today's permanent injunction marks the second time the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has ruled in favor of the Maple Grove students' right to equal acces for their club, after having previously ordered the school stop discriminating against the club in September of 2007. 

The plaintiffs in Straights and Gays for Equality v. Osseo Area Schools were represented by ACLU cooperating attorneys Tom Kayser, Dave Pinto, and Genevieve Zimmerman of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P.

A copy of today's ruling can be downloaded at: www.aclu.org/lgbt/youth/36599lgl20080829.html.

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