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Students Sue Colorado Springs High School for Blocking Gay/Straight Alliance


Dec 12, 2003

Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado (ACLU) filed suit today in federal district court on behalf of a group of students at Palmer High School in Colorado Springs who challenge their school’s refusal to recognize their student club, the Palmer High Gay/Straight Alliance.


The students started the club in January, 2003, but school authorities have repeatedly refused to recognize it. Without recognition, the student group cannot meet on school property on the same terms as other student groups; cannot post club-related information at the school; cannot use the public address system to make announcements; and is omitted from the school’s yearbook and official list of student-organized activities.


Similar student-led and student-initiated Gay/Straight alliances are functioning at 50 high schools in Colorado and over 2000 high schools around the country. Among other activities, they facilitate discussion between gay students, straight students, and those who are questioning their sexual identity, on such subjects as harassment, discrimination, and bias based on sexual orientation.


The lawsuit relies on the Equal Access Act, a federal statute that requires schools to grant equal access to all student clubs on a nondiscriminatory basis. The law applies to all schools that permit what are called “noncurricular” student organizations, which are clubs that are not directly tied to the subject matter taught in the school’s courses. According to the law, if a school permits even one noncurricular student club to use school facilities, then it must permit all noncurricular clubs. The Complaint asserts that Palmer permits other noncurricular student clubs and therefore must permit the Gay/Straight Alliance.


The ACLU’s clients include four seniors, two juniors, and a first-year student at Palmer High School. Defendants are Palmer High School and Colorado Springs School District No. 11. Attorneys for the students are Mark Silverstein, Legal Director of the ACLU of Colorado, and Alfred T. McDonnell, of Arnold & Porter.

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