School Board Votes Against Students' Gay-Straight Club at El Modena High
Orange, CA, December 8, 1999) -- After months of delaying students’ request to allow a Gay-Straight Alliance Club to meet at El Modena High School, the Orange Unified School Board voted 7-0 late Tuesday to deny the students their constitutional and legal rights.
The students formed the club as a way to promote understanding and respect. The school board's action has left the students with no choice but to pursue the lawsuit they filed in federal court on November 24, said Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and People For the American Way Foundation.
“The students decided to form a Gay-Straight Alliance Club to encourage understanding, safety and unity. It is sad and shocking that some adults have used this event as a chance to promote hatred and intolerance,” said PFAWF president Carole Shields. The students are being represented by attorneys with Lambda, PFAWF and Irell & Manella, LLP, a California law firm with offices in Los Angeles and Orange County.
Myron Dean Quon, staff attorney for Lambda’s Western Regional Office in Los Angeles, said, “How many more students must be taunted, harassed, and hurt before adults recognize what the students already know: anti-gay bias is a serious school problem. The board should be ashamed by its failure to support these students and their brave effort to promote respect and safety in their school.”
The federal lawsuit alleges that the school board is violating the students’ rights to free speech and equal protection under the United States and California Constitutions. The lawsuit further claims that the school is violating the students’ rights under the federal Equal Access Act, which prohibits school districts from discriminating among student-initiated clubs because of the political, philosophical, religious or other viewpoints expressed at club meetings.
The students first applied to meet at school at the beginning of the semester, but the board has engaged in one delay after another. Although club approval normally occurs at the school level, the high school did not allow the students to meet, passing the matter on to the school board instead. On November 9, the school board held an extraordinary public forum about the club, where the students were subjected to extreme and vulgar anti-gay remarks. On November 18, rather than approve the club, as it must under the federal Equal Access Act, the board put off a vote once again. The students renewed their request on November 19. After the school district responded by saying that it needed more time to review the application, the students filed their lawsuit on November 24. On December 7, the board voted unanimously to deny approval for the club to meet.
Anthony Colín, et al. v. Orange Unified School District, et. al is pending in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, Southern Division.
Contact: Lambda: Peg Byron at 212-809-8585 or 888-987-1984 (pager), or Myron Dean Quon at 323-937-272 ext. 229; PFAWF - Margot Friedman at 202-467-4999, or Kendra Huard at 310-478-6657 or 310-617-6718 (cell)