ACLU Seeks Order to Protect Right to Form a Gay-Straight Alliance at Yulee Middle School
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida filed a motion for summary judgment today in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU against the School Board of Nassau County, Fla. in 2009 on behalf of plaintiff Hannah Page. The motion seeks a final order from the court – without the need for a trial – that both the First Amendment and the Equal Access Act protect the right of middle school students to form a gay-straight alliance.
The ACLU of Florida filed suit on February 10, 2009 on behalf of Hannah Page, the Gay-Straight Alliance of Yulee High School and Jacob Brock after Yulee High School administrators denied student requests for permission to form a GSA and to hold meetings at the high school. Hannah Page asserted additional claims related to the denial of her request to form a GSA at Yulee Middle School, when she was in eighth grade. On March 11, 2009, Judge Adams entered a preliminary injunction ordering the school district to allow the GSA to meet at Yulee High School while the case made its way through the courts.
“The school district refuses to obey the law. They know that they can’t discriminate but they do it anyway. It’s time for the court to make things right,” said Robert Rosenwald, ACLU of Florida LGBT Advocacy Project Director. “Thanks to the court’s preliminary injunction the district stopped trying to thwart the GSA at Yulee High School. Hopefully, we can make sure that any future students who want to have a GSA at Yulee Middle School won’t have to go through the same fight as Hannah Page.”
In August 2009, the ACLU of Florida and the School Board of Nassau County reached a partial settlement, approved by Judge Henry Lee Adams, Jr., in which a permanent injunction was entered against the district prohibiting discrimination against the high school’s GSA and forbidding retaliation against students and faculty who associate themselves with the GSA. The school district was also ordered to pay $40,000 in attorneys’ fees and court costs associated with the litigation to the ACLU.
The ACLU’s motion argues that the case is now ripe for summary adjudication, because there is no genuine issue as to any material fact. Even if the facts are taken as alleged by the defendant, the defendant violated Page’s rights under the First Amendment and Equal Access Act. The ACLU states that both the First Amendment and the Equal Access Act establish the right to form a GSA in the middle school.
The ACLU of Florida’s LGBT Advocacy Project and the ACLU’s national Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project won a similar lawsuit in Okeechobee, Florida in 2008, where a federal judge ruled for the first time that school administrators must provide for the well-being of LGBT students, and that forming a GSA was a good way to accomplish that goal.
Gay-Straight Alliance of Yulee High School vs. School Board of Nassau County was filed in the Jacksonville Division of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida. Robert Rosenwald, Director of the ACLU of Florida’s LGBT Advocacy Project is lead counsel for the ACLU case, along with Shelbi Day, ACLU of Florida LGBT Advocacy Project staff attorney, Randall Marshall, ACLU of Florida Legal Director, and Maria Kayanan, ACLU of Florida Associate Legal Director.
Download a PDF of the Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment: www.aclufl.org/pdfs/YuleeMSJ.pdf
Download a PDF of the Judge’s Order granting partial injunction: www.aclufl.org/issues/lesbian_gay_rights/OrderGrantingPI.pdf
Download a PDF of the preliminary injunction: www.aclufl.org/pdfs/YuleePIwin.pdf
Download a PDF of the original Complaint here: www.aclufl.org/pdfs/YuleeComplaint.pdf
Students can learn more about their rights by downloading a free copy of the ACLU of Florida’s Student Rights Handbook at: www.aclufl.org
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The American Civil Liberties Union is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.