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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 26, 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 52
ACLU sues Indiana school district for not recognizing Gay Straight Alliance
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ACLU sues Indiana school district for not recognizing Gay Straight Alliance

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The ACLU has filed suit against an Indiana school district on behalf of three high school students who want to form a Gay Straight Alliance.

The North Putnam High School Community School Corporation - the district school authority - has refused to recognize the GSA.

Former North Putnam principal Alan Zerkel said he was informed of the GSA during the 2013-2014 school term and would have approved it had he had the authority to do so.

The issue went to the school district in June 2014, and then again in September. It was finally brought up for a vote on November 20, but the board split 3 to 3 with one abstention, meaning the GSA failed to win official recognition.

For that reason, the club has not been allowed to meet on school grounds or promote its activities within the school.

However, the lawsuit says that LGBT students at the school have frequently been harassed and wanted to form the GSA to provide a place to educate the community and support vulnerable students.

The school also allows other non-school-sponsored clubs and activities to meet, such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Key Club and Best Buddies, but has denied recognition of the GSA club for more than a year.

The students followed all the school's required procedures outlined in its student handbook to establish the club, including securing a faculty member to supervise the group, the lawsuit says.

'The law is clear in this matter,' said Ken Falk, ACLU of Indiana legal director. 'There is no excuse for the school district's intransigence, which is causing real harm to its students.'

The ACLU of Indiana was successful in reversing a similar decision by a school in the Town of Munster in July 2014.

'The actions of the school district in clear violation of federal law leave the most vulnerable students at North Putnam without critically needed support,' Chase Strangio, Staff Attorney at the ACLU added.

In November 1999, a federal district judge ruled that the Salt Lake City school district's decision to reject a GSA at East High School violated the federal Equal Access Act. Lambda Legal served as lead counsel in the Salt Lake City case.

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