Gay-Straight Student Club Seeks Injunction Against School Officials

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Argument: Monday, January 24, 8:30 a.m.
January 21, 2000

(Orange, CA, January 21, 2000) – To win equal treatment and recognition of their Gay-Straight Alliance club, students from El Modena High School will ask a federal judge for a preliminary injunction ordering Orange County school officials to allow the student group to meet and have equal access to school facilities as its lawsuit continues.

On Monday, January 24, attorneys for the students will argue the motion before United States District Judge David O. Carter. The students’ parents and attorneys will speak with reporters following the hearing.

Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, People For the American Way Foundation, and Irell & Manella LLP represent the students.

“These school officials need a lesson in Constitution 101, that trampling the students’ first amendment rights is wrong. We urge the federal court to act now to prevent the school board’s actions from causing even more damage,” said Ralph G. Neas, president of the People for the American Way Foundation.

Said Lambda Supervising Attorney Jon W. Davidson, “It’s outrageous that rather than work to discourage anti-gay abuse in schools, the school board prefers to thwart those students who are trying to promote tolerance and respect. By refusing to recognize the GSA, the school board has not only broken its own written policies, but also has violated federal law.”

In addition to the first amendment violation, the students’ motion argues that the school board is violating their rights under the federal Equal Access Act, which prohibits schools from discriminating against a student-initiated club because of the political, philosophical, religious or other viewpoints expressed at club meetings.

After preventing the Gay-Straight Alliance from meeting all fall, the school board on December 7 unanimously rejected the students’ application to have the group recognized. El Modena High School has at least 38 student groups that meet on campus, including the Asian Club, Black Student Union, Christian Club, Earth Club, Eighties Club, Equestrian Club, Gentlemen’s Club, Girls’ League, and Juggling Club.

The school affords those clubs certain rights and opportunities, including the right to meet on school premises, participate in "Club Rush" to attract new members, announce and advertise meetings on school bulletin boards, and appear in the school yearbook. If the students’ motion is granted, they will be able to exercise the same rights and opportunities that other student groups have while waiting for the final outcome of the lawsuit.

Anthony Colín, et al. v. Orange Unified School District, et. al, case no. SA CV 99-1461, is pending in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, Southern Division.

WHAT: El Modena High School Gay-Straight Alliance members seek preliminary injunction ordering Orange County Unified School District officials to allow their club to meet

WHO: Irell & Manella attorney, David Codell, Lambda Supervising Attorney Jon Davidson, parents, and PFAWF’s Kendra Huard speak with reporters following hearing

WHERE:U.S. District Court for Calif.’s Central District 411 W 4th Street, Room 9D, Santa Ana

WHEN: Monday, January 24, 8:30 a.m.

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CONTACT: PFAWF – Margot Friedman 202-467-4999, or Kendra Huard 310-478-6657 or 310-617-6718(cell); Lambda – Peg Byron 212-809-8585 or 888-987-1984 (pager), or Myron Dean Quon 323-937-2728, ext. 229

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