Colín v. Orange Unified School District

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Status: Closed
Outcome:
Landmark Case
Court:
U.S. District Court
Issues: Teens & Young Adults, Youth and Schools

Groundbreaking case arguing for the right of students to form a gay-straight alliance and to become a recognized student club

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Summary

After deferring action on their application for several months while denying students permission to meet, the Orange Unified School District Board formally denied an application by the gay-straight alliance to become a recognized student club and to meet at El Modena High School. The board insisted it would only reconsider the club’s application if the group changed its name and agreed to limitations on speech not required of other clubs. With joint representation by Lambda Legal and People For the American Way Foundation, Anthony Colín (the club’s student founder), club member Heather Zeitin and the GSA sued in federal court, seeking relief for violation of their legal rights under the Equal Access Act and the U.S. Constitution. In 2000, after a preliminary injunction was granted allowing the club to meet pending trial, a favorable settlement was reached. The GSA was allowed to keep its name and was given the same access to school facilities as all other student clubs.

Context

The federal Equal Access Act states that schools that receive federal funding and allow at least one after-school club to meet and use the school’s facilities may not deny any student club the same treatment based on the content of what they want to discuss.

Lambda Legal's Impact

This landmark case marks the first time a school was ordered to allow a GSA to meet on campus. Since then, it’s been invoked countless times around the country when students’ rights to form a GSA have been questioned.