First Amendment topicsAbout the First Amendment
News Story
Kentucky gay-straight group can meet at high school

By The Associated Press

ASHLAND, Ky. — A federal judge has ordered a northeastern Kentucky school district to allow a newly formed Gay-Straight Alliance to meet on school grounds.

U.S. District Judge David Bunning ruled on April 18 that the Boyd County school district must treat the group no differently than the Bible club, whether reading announcements over the intercom or publishing meeting times in the school newspaper.

Bunning granted a request from the American Civil Liberties Union, representing students who filed suit against the school district, for an injunction to give equal access to the Gay-Straight Alliance.

The ACLU argued that a ban on all school club meetings was an unconstitutional attempt to shut out students who sought to form the gay-straight group.

"The judge here recognized that schools can't silence students who hold unpopular views, even if those views cause others to react disruptively," said Tamara Lange, a staff attorney for the ACLU's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. "Instead, the school must punish students who are disruptive."

The ACLU claimed in the lawsuit that the school board had violated the students' rights under the federal Equal Access Act and the First Amendment. The lawsuit also charged that the school board had violated the Kentucky Education Reform Act by usurping the authority of a school council, which had voted previously to allow the student group to meet on campus.

Administrators and school board members testified last month that they feared animosity surrounding the group might turn to violence. The school board tried to calm the situation by voting to suspend the meetings of all clubs.

However, Bunning concluded from two days of testimony that some student groups, including the Bible club and drama club, continued to meet on campus despite the ban.

Bill Capehart, superintendent of the Boyd County schools, said he notified the high school principal on April 18 of the judge's ruling, letting him know that the ban on club meetings had been lifted. He said the school board would discuss the issue tonight.

"I just can't project at this point how the community and how the opposition are going to respond," Capehart said. "It's going to be our challenge to assure that learning goes on."

Bunning noted several examples of harassment, including threats, against students involved in the gay-support group.

Capehart said had testified in the hearing that tempers flared among parents when the group was created. He said he saw "true hatred" in the eyes of about 70 people who opposed the club during a school council meeting in October of last year.

"As the judge noted, anti-gay sentiment is rampant at this school," said David Friedman, a lawyer for the ACLU of Kentucky. "He rightfully recognized that the GSA serves the public interest by working to foster tolerance in a community that clearly needs it."

Bunning said most students in the school would likely benefit from his ruling because all other non-curricular student groups would likely be reinstated when the gay-straight group is reinstated, including religious and community-service clubs.

The school board took the unusual action of suspending all clubs in the district last December. Seven of the 25 students who attended the club meeting responded with the lawsuit.

"We are absolutely thrilled at this news," said Kaye King, the club's faculty adviser. "I cannot tell you how proud I am of these kids for standing up for their rights in such a hostile environment."


'Gay-straight' club gets go-ahead to meet on high school campus

Federal judge issues preliminary injunction in free-speech case brought against California's Orange Unified School District. 02.07.00

Gay-straight student club to get go-ahead from California school district
In effort to settle federal lawsuit, board is to reverse ban of high school club tomorrow, says Orange Unified schools spokeswoman. 09.06.00

Gay-straight student club can't meet at high school
Federal judge finds Lubbock, Texas, 'school officials and parents are in the best position to determine what subject matter is reasonable and will be allowed' on campus. 03.04.04

Ky. students can't skip anti-gay harassment training
Federal judge finds 'no basis for an opt-out' on free-speech or religious grounds because sessions don't endorse any viewpoint or require students to disavow religious beliefs. 02.20.06

Despite hostility, teen leads charge for club for gay students
Yasmin Gonzalez, 17, sues Okeechobee, Fla., principal and school board for refusing to let her establish Gay-Straight Alliance. 01.03.07

Gay-straight student club can meet while lawsuit proceeds
Federal judge says group has 'demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success' on claim that Florida school violated law when it prohibited club from meeting. 04.09.07

6th Circuit revives challenge to mandatory anti-harassment training
Divided three-judge panel rules Timothy Morrison can pursue claim that Kentucky school district's policy 'chilled' his ability to profess his Christian beliefs and opposition to homosexuality. 10.26.07

6th Circuit tosses Ky. teen's lawsuit
Divided three-judge panel reverses its previous ruling that Timothy Morrison could pursue challenge to school's mandatory anti-harassment training. 04.10.08

Students trying to form clubs have free speech, law on their side
By Charles C. Haynes School administrators in Colorado, Texas prove attacks on First Amendment can come from both ends of the ideological spectrum. 02.02.03

Debating homosexuality in schools: Censorship doesn’t work
By Charles C. Haynes Trying to stifle speech for or against homosexuality rides on false hope that harmony, tolerance will prevail if no one is allowed to say anything that might offend anyone. 08.24.03

News summary page
View the latest news stories throughout the First Amendment Center Online.

print this   Print

Last system update: Tuesday, February 10, 2009 | 11:39:47
About this site
About the First Amendment
About the First Amendment Center
First Amendment programs
State of the First Amendment

First Reports
Supreme Court
First Amendment publications
First Amendment Center history
Freedom Sings™
First Amendment

Congressional Research Service reports
Guest editorials
FOI material
The First Amendment

Lesson plans
Contact us
Privacy statement
Related links