Gay-straight student club can't meet at high school

By The Associated Press

LUBBOCK, Texas — A federal judge yesterday ruled that a group of gay high school students in this conservative West Texas city cannot meet on campus, siding with the Lubbock school district in a lawsuit filed by students.

The Lubbock Gay-Straight Alliance claimed in its July lawsuit that the district violated students' constitutional rights and a federal law, which forbids discrimination against groups meeting on campuses of schools receiving federal funds, by refusing the group's requests to meet at a high school in late 2002.

Mirah Curzer, a founding, straight member of the group and part of the suit, said she was disappointed in the ruling in Caudillo v. Lubbock Indep. School District.

"The longer it takes with the legal process, the longer we are without our rights," said the 17-year-old, declining to say if that meant the case would be appealed.

Mark Griffin, Lubbock school board president, said he was pleased by the ruling.

"It confirms our policy as a district, and I think it accurately reflects the community perspective as a whole," he said.

U.S. District Judge Sam R. Cummings ruled that "the local school officials and parents are in the best position to determine what subject matter is reasonable and will be allowed on LISD campuses."

He found that the decision not to allow the group to meet on campus is "an assertion of a school's right not to surrender control of the public school system to students and erode a community's standard of what subject matter is considered obscene and inappropriate."

The district's "abstinence-only" policy and its " well-known" policy banning discussion of sex or sex acts differentiated it from six similar cases in Utah, California, Indiana and Kentucky that sided with like groups, Cummings wrote.

Brian Chase, an attorney with Lambda Legal, a national gay civil rights organization that filed the suit on behalf of the group, disagreed.

"I'm disappointed that the court didn't choose to follow the six other federal decisions allowing the students to meet and discuss issues of importance to gay and lesbian citizens," he said.

No decision has been made on an appeal, Chase said.

Cummings came down hard on the group's Web site. Information on the site, the address for which was written on proposed fliers the group wanted to post and which presented links to other sites, is "lewd," "indecent" and "obscene," Cummings wrote.

The students' First Amendment and Equal Access Act rights don't "trump the rights of a school district, who stands in the place of a student's parent, to reasonably prohibit sexual material and discussions of sexual acts from its campus in an effort to maintain order, discipline, and the students' well-being," wrote Cummings, citing an exception in the federal access law.

Griffin said other districts might look at their policies in light of the ruling.

"This (case) is not going to say every school district in the world is ensured success," he said. "Every case will stand on its own merits and facts," he said.