Fla. school sued over refusing gay-straight club

Posted on 12 Feb 2009 at 6:58pm
By Ron Word Associated Press

Lawsuit says refusal violates 1st Amendment, Equal Access Act

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Two Florida high school students on Tuesday, Feb. 10 sued their school board because they were not allowed to form a club that promotes the tolerance of gays.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida filed the suit Tuesday in federal court on behalf of Yulee High School students Hannah Page, a freshman, and Jacob Brock, a junior.

The lawsuit claims violations of the First Amendment and the Federal Equal Access Act. The act requires schools to grant access and recognition to a Gay-Straight Alliance and other groups if the school allows any extracurricular group to meet on campus, said ACLU attorney Robert F. Rosenwald.

The lawsuit seeks a preliminary injunction to allow the club to meet at Yulee High while the case makes it way to trial.

Page said the group just wants to meet like others do.

"We just want the club so that straight and gay kids can get together to talk about harassment and discrimination against gay kids in an open environment. The school is discriminating against us and that’s exactly the kind of thing we want to prevent," she said.

John L. Ruis, the school district’s superintendent, said in a letter to Rosenwald that "a club highlighting sexual orientations will not be permitted as it would violate school board policy." The Nassau County School Board was served with the lawsuit.

The ACLU recently won a similar case in Okeechobee. A judge there ruled schools must provide for the well-being of gay students and cannot discriminate against the Gay-Straight Alliance.

Rosenwald said the Okeechobee County School Board paid $326,000 in attorneys fees in the case.

Yulee is about 25 miles north of Jacksonville.

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