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Gay-straight student club can meet while lawsuit proceeds

By The Associated Press
04.09.07

MIAMI — A high school club that promotes tolerance of gays must be allowed to meet while a lawsuit is pending, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore ruled on April 6 that Okeechobee High School must grant the same privileges to the Gay-Straight Alliance that it grants other clubs, as mandated by the federal Equal Access Act.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued the Okeechobee school board in November on behalf of the high school's Gay-Straight Alliance after school officials said the group was a "sex-based" organization that would violate its abstinence-only education policy.

In his 12-page ruling, Moore wrote that the group and its founder, high school senior Yasmin Gonzalez, have "demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success" on their claim that the school violated federal law when it prohibited the club from meeting.

ACLU attorney Robert Rosenwald called the April 7 order a "strong indication of what will happen in the end."

In his ruling, the judge said the school showed no evidence to back its concern that the group would encourage students to share "obscene or sexual explicit material," and that the school had made that assumption based on the group's name.

David Gibbs, the lawyer for the school board, said on April 7 that he had not spoken to the school board about whether it would press forward for trial. He said he believed the judge's decision honored the school's desire that the club steer clear of discussions related to sex.

"The kids are getting the name they wanted," he said, "But we're pleased that the students are limited to discussing discrimination issues."

Gonzalez said she was happy with the decision and issued a statement saying she hoped future students "will benefit from a more open environment and not have to endure the same treatment from our school."


Update
Gay-straight club can meet at Fla. high school
Federal judge finds Okeechobee County school board violated students' First Amendment, equal-access rights. 07.31.08

Previous
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

Related

Kentucky gay-straight group can meet at high school

Federal judge orders Boyd County school district to treat new Gay-Straight Alliance no differently than Bible club. 04.21.03

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

S.C. principal to resign after gay club approved for school
In letter explaining his decision to leave high school, Eddie Walker says allowing Gay-Straight Alliance on campus would conflict with his professional beliefs and religious convictions. 05.22.08

S.C. district opts not to ban gay clubs
School board had considered barring student clubs that don't relate to academics or sports after high school principal said he would resign in conflict over Gay-Straight Alliance. 06.25.08

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

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