MINNEAPOLIS The Osseo School District must give a student gay rights group at Maple Grove High School the same privileges offered to other extracurricular clubs while a lawsuit proceeds through the court system, according to a ruling Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen issued a preliminary injunction that orders the district to put the student group called Straights and Gays for Equality (SAGE) on equal footing as other groups.
Two students sued the school district in September, claiming that groups including the Spirit Council, the Asian Culture Group and the Chess Club were allowed to publicize meetings and events, but members of SAGE were consistently denied such requests.
The lawsuit claimed a violation of the federal Equal Access Act, which holds that public schools must extend the same privileges to all student-organized, non-curricular clubs.
The plaintiffs are two female students who are seniors at the school. Defendants include the current and past superintendents of the Osseo School District, the school’s principal and the district’s school board members.
In her ruling Tuesday, Ericksen ordered the school to treat SAGE like any other student group when it came to access for meetings, avenues for communication and other rights, according to a news release from the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota.
The judge issued the preliminary injunction to prevent “irreparable harm” from befalling the group while the lawsuit runs it course, the news release said.
“Instead of denying SAGE equal access, the school should be encouraging them, and this order is an important first step toward that happening,” said Teresa Nelson, legal counsel for ACLU of Minnesota.
Lisa Hunter Jensen, director of community relations for the school district, said the district has seen the decision and was reviewing what its course of action would be.
SAGE formed at the school during the 2002-2003 school year, the lawsuit said, “to promote tolerance and respect for Maple Grove Senior High School students and faculty through education and activities.” While some incidents date to the fall of 2003, SAGE members started to find their requests regularly denied in the 2004-2005 school year, the suit said.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, April 07, 2006.