ACLU of Indiana Sues East Allen County Schools

Leo Jr. Sr. High School Denies Students’ Rights to Hold Gay Straight Alliance Group

Affiliate: ACLU of Indiana
November 30, 2018 11:30 am

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INDIANAPOLIS – Leo Pride Alliance is a student-led organization for high school students at Leo Jr. Sr. High School that provides a safe and supportive environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and intersex students and their cisgender supporters. The school has imposed undue, unequal burdens on Leo Pride Alliance. The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed a lawsuit Friday on behalf of Leo Pride Alliance, against East Allen County Schools.

Throughout the country student clubs such as Leo Pride Alliance are known as “gay straight alliances” or “GSAs.” When Leo students sought to establish a GSA as one of the clubs at the high school, administrators would not allow the club to be called “Leo GSA.” They insisted the club be called “Leo Pride Alliance,” with “Pride” referring to an acronym used by the school, “Professionalism, Respect, Integrity, Diligence, and Excellence.”

In addition, club members may not use the words gay, GSA, or LGBT+, or similar language, in any of the announcements or promotions for the club. Unlike other clubs, the Leo Pride Alliance is not allowed to meet outside of a single classroom, or participate in school fundraisers.

The faculty advisor of Leo Pride Alliance is also required to send a list of all club members to all faculty. Since this has started some students have stopped attending the group.

“This group aims to create an environment that provides social, emotional and educational support to students, during a time that otherwise might be increasingly difficult for LGBTQ students,” said Jane Henegar, executive director of ACLU of Indiana. “The differential treatment aimed at Leo Pride Alliance by administrators is unwarranted.”

The unequal burdens imposed upon the Leo Pride Alliance violate the Equal Access Act, 20 U.S.C. § 4071, et seq., the First Amendment, and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

“Students at Leo Jr. Sr. High School may participate in extracurricular clubs recognized by the school,” said Ken Falk, ACLU of Indiana legal director. “By creating additional hurdles for the Leo Pride Alliance, and censoring the groups name, the school is infringing on these students’ rights.”

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