After ACLU Intervention, Texas High School Agrees to Reinstate Amnesty International Club

Affiliate: ACLU of Texas
August 7, 2003 12:00 am

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SAN ANTONIO – The American Civil Liberties Union today reached an agreement with officials from the San Antonio Independent School District to reinstate Luther Burbank High School’s Amnesty International Club, which had been banned in March after some of its members independently took part in a silent demonstration to raise awareness about violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people.

“”We’re really happy this has all been resolved before the new school year, and that the district understands that students have free speech rights too,”” said Blanca Bazan, a senior who will be the leader of the club when classes begin on August 18. “”When some of our members took part in the Day of Silence last spring, they were really careful to do it in a way that didn’t disrupt classes or break the law, and it’s great that the district recognizes that.””

Last March, the school shut down the Amnesty International Club because some of its members had taken part in “”National Day of Silence,”” an annual nationwide student action in which students take a day-long vow of silence to illustrate the silence in which lesbian, bisexual, gay, and transgendered people often suffer when they experience discrimination and violence. After talks with the ACLU, the district has agreed today to reinstate the club and allow students to participate in future Day of Silence activities as long as students continue to make sure they don’t interfere with instructional time while doing so.

“”We’re very pleased that the school district has decided to do the right thing and stand up for students’ constitutional right to free expression and the federal Equal Access Act,”” said Ken Choe, a staff attorney for the ACLU’s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. Choe added, “”All of this came about because one student realized her rights had been violated and looked for help. We hope that young people everywhere will be inspired by this to learn about their rights and make a positive difference in their communities.””

“”Following the recent gay rights victory in the Supreme Court, the ACLU has developed a new website to help lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people and their supporters learn about their rights,”” Choe continued. “”We have a wealth of information available on steps you can take to make schools safer and protect students’ rights.”” Information on the site ranges from simple ways students can learn what their rights are to comprehensive instructions on how to start a gay-straight alliance or secure an anti-harassment policy at your school. The materials can be found online at /getequal.

“”Amnesty OUTfront welcomes the decision to reinstate our student group at Luther Burbank High School. There were ovder 200 Amnesty student groups that participated in Day of Silence this year and we expect more to do so next year,”” said Ariel Herrera, national field organizer for Amnesty OUTfront. He added, “”The right to education is a fundamental human right that schools and governments have an obligation to protect. Many LGBT students throughout the country are denied this basic right because of discrimination, harassment, and violence. Participation in Day of Silence is a great way to start to confronting these issues and end the discrimination and harassment that LGBT youth face in schools.””

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