ACLU of Virginia Commends Proposed Policy Providing Equal Treatment for All School Clubs

Affiliate: ACLU of Virginia
March 10, 2006 12:00 am

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Demands Rejection of Amendment that Would Ban Gay-Straight Alliances

CHESTERFIELD, VA – The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia today commended the Chesterfield County School Board for a proposed policy that would guarantee equal treatment for all student clubs. Conversely, the civil liberties group also warned county officials against approving an anticipated amendment to the policy that would ban Gay-Straight Alliances and similar student organizations.

“By and large the proposed policy is a great improvement over the existing policy and clearly protects the right of students to form Gay-Straight Alliances in Chesterfield County schools,” said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis. “However, the school board must reject any amendment to the proposed policy that would discriminate against Gay-Straight Alliances.”

The amendment, drafted by the Family Foundation, will likely be presented at the school board’s meeting next Tuesday. The amendment would prevent the formation of any student club whose objectives are “in conflict with the principle of sexual abstinence before marriage or the principle of confining sexual activity to marriage between one man and one woman.”

The ACLU raised several concerns in a letter sent to the chair of the school board, including a ban in the proposed policy on “sexually explicit” speech. Such bans could be interpreted by school officials to prevent student clubs from addressing legitimate and salient issues such as reproductive rights and sexual assault, according to the ACLU.

The ACLU also asked that the policy be amended to require that school officials accept or reject student applications to form clubs within 30 days of receiving them, and provide an explanation in writing whenever an application is rejected.

“The most common complaint from students trying to form clubs, especially Gay-Straight Alliances, is that school officials sit on their applications indefinitely,” said Willis. “The Chesterfield policy will be much more effective – and a great many misunderstandings will be avoided – if it sets a deadline for responding to applications and requires school officials to provide an explanation when an application is rejected.”

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