ACLU Blasts KY Board of Ed's Decision to Ban All School Clubs Rather Than Allow Gay-Straight Alliance

Affiliate: ACLU of Kentucky
December 20, 2002 12:00 am

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ASHLAND, KY – In an attempt to avoid a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union, the Board of Education of Boyd County has decided to ban all school clubs in the district in an effort to shut down a recently formed Gay Straight Alliance in its high school.

“It is truly shameful that the School Board has decided to sacrifice the needs of all its students rather than permit this group of students to meet to address issues of tolerance and diversity,” said James Esseks, Litigation Director of the ACLU’s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. “This decision is frightfully similar to the days when many cities chose to shut down public swimming pools rather than let African Americans use them.”

In October, a council which decides all issues related to school clubs approved the application by a group of about 20 students to form the “GSA,” as such groups are known. The students had been urging the school to allow the GSA since February of 2001. It was only after the ACLU sent a letter to the school explaining that the Federal Equal Access Act required the school to treat all non-curricular clubs equally that the council reversed its position and permitted the GSA. Local ministers then launched an appeal of the decision that eventually prompted today’s decision by the Board.

“The Board’s decision does a disservice to the entire community,” said Jeff Vessels, Executive Director of the ACLU of Kentucky. “School clubs play a key role in many college admissions policies. This is a textbook case of cutting off your nose to spite your face.”

Under the Federal Equal Access Act, schools must treat all non-curricular clubs equally. This is the first time the ACLU is aware of that a school board has attempted to shut down a GSA by banning all clubs.

The ACLU is considering what legal action to take next.

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