ACLU Promises Legal Action if CA School Denies Students The Right to Form Gay-Straight Alliance Club

November 11, 1999 12:00 am

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LOS ANGELES, CA — The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California today announced it would pursue legal action against the Board of Education of the Orange Unified School District if it refuses to allow a Gay-Straight Alliance Club at El Modena High School.

The ACLU said that by denying the formation of the Gay Straight Alliance, the board would violate the freedoms of expression and association that are guaranteed by the First Amendment.

“Failure of the board to permit the proposed club to form and meet like other non-curriculum clubs at El Modena would have serious legal consequences,” said Michael Small, the ACLU of Southern California’s lead counsel on the case. “It is laudable that students are seeking to come together to start a critically important dialogue on tolerance and understanding of issues related to sexual orientation.”

“Indeed, it is just that sort of conversation that public school officials should be fostering,” Small said. “Instead of encouraging that discussion, the school board seems intent on stifling it.”

The ACLU added that the school board’s action could also have a significant impact on the district’s eligibility for federal education funds under a statute that prohibits public schools from discriminating against student clubs on the basis of a club’s philosophical or political viewpoint.

“We understand the board will vote on this issue on November 18,” said Small. “Should the board fail to vote to allow the club to form and meet, it can be sure that swift and severe legal consequences will follow.”

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