Supporters from throughout Texas came out in numbers on Friday to join Corpus Christi students, parents, alumni, community members and religious leaders in a rally in front of the Flour Bluff High School campus. They rallied to support the efforts of ACLU client Nikki Peet, a 17-year-old Flour Bluff High School student who has been trying to form a Gay-Straight Alliance, or GSA, at her school since November of last year. The campus and school district administrators have tried a number of tricks to prevent the group from forming, ranging from asking Nikki to change the name of the club, to claiming that there is a school policy allowing the district to exclude non-curricular clubs, to forcing other student clubs off-campus. Last Wednesday, March 2, the ACLU LGBT Project and the ACLU of Texas wrote a letter to the school district, informing them that their actions violate Nikki and other students’ rights under the Equal Access Act and the First Amendment.
On Friday, Nikki and most Flour Bluff High School students went about their regular school day while the rally was happening outside. A handful of students had permission from their parents to miss school so they could attend the rally all day. And once the school day was over, a number of additional students swelled the ranks of those demonstrating in front of the school to an estimated crowd of 150. Local citizens concerned about the school’s discrimination against Nikki and the GSA organized the rally and brought signs, banners, and a large dose of enthusiasm. The signs and chants reflected what Nikki and the students are asking for: “Equal Access for All Students” and “Bring Back the Clubs!” Drivers showed their support by waving, flashing “victory” signs, and giving “thumbs up.” There were also a much smaller group of counter-demonstrators across the street, but the tone was civil throughout the day.
Local activist Paul Rodriguez and members of the Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi GSA organized the protest. Prior to the protest, two local ministers delivered a petition sponsored by Change.org which asks the Flour Bluff Independent School District to allow the formation of the GSA. At the time the petition was delivered, it had been signed by 28,000 supporters from all over the world. (As of the time this blog was written, there were over 53,000 petition signatures.)
In our letter sent last week, we gave the school district until Wednesday, March 9, to reverse its decision to block the formation of the GSA and its expulsion of other student groups. So far, the school district has not responded to or commented about the ACLU’s letter. We hope that the school will quickly realize that its position, aside from being illegal, is also unfair to all students who want to participate in non-curricular clubs. If the school does not change its mind, Nikki and the ACLU are prepared to continue fighting and pursuing Nikki’s legal rights.
If you would like to find out more about forming a GSA in your own school, click here.
Photos courtesy of Manuel Quinto-Pozos