Students Ask Judge to Open School Doors to Club with Gay Perspective

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Argument: Thursday, April 20, 10:00 a.m.
April 19, 2000

(SALT LAKE CITY, April 19, 2000) -- Some Salt Lake City students are asking a federal judge to order the assistant superintendent overseeing their high school to open the school door to their club to discuss classroom subjects such as American History, Government and Sociology from the perspective of gay people.

On Thursday, April 20, attorneys for the students will argue the motion before United States District Judge Tena Campbell. The students, their mothers and attorneys will speak with reporters following the hearing.

"In school, we are taught that the Constitution gives everybody a right to speak freely. But at our school, it seems the First Amendment only applies if you promise not to say anything about gay people," said 11th grader Maggie Hinckley who along with classmate Jessi Cohen is a plaintiff to the lawsuit.

Said Cohen, "Our PRISM club should be given a fair chance to meet. It is important that all the students at East High have a chance to appreciate the role lesbians and gay men play in democracy and civil rights." PRISM stands for "People Respecting Important Social Movements."

The students' motion argues that, in keeping their PRISM club from meeting, school officials are suppressing students' first amendment rights of speech and expressive association. In order to prevent this irreparable harm, the students' attorneys believe the PRISM club should be allowed to meet while the courts determine whether the club's rejection was in violation of the law.

Lead counsel the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, along with Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights represent the students and their club.

The lawsuit filed last week against Assistant Superintendent Cynthia Seidel, alleges that students' first amendment rights were first suppressed last year when officials rejected the application of the Rainbow Club, a curricular club that similarly intended to look at school subjects with an eye toward the perspectives of lesbians and gay men. The application for the PRISM club was denied this March. In 1996, the same school district took the drastic measure of banning all non-curricular student groups in order to thwart students' attempts to form a gay-straight alliance. The legal challenge on behalf of that GSA, East High Gay/Straight Alliance v. Board of Ed., continues on appeal.

    WHAT: East High School PRISM club members seek preliminary injunction ordering Salt Lak eCity School District officials to allow their club to meet WHO: ACLU of Utah Legal Director Stephen Clark, Cooperating Attorney Richard Van Wagoner, students and parents will speak with reporters following hearing WHERE:U.S. District Court for Salt Lake City, Room 235, 350 South Main Street, Salt Lake City, UT WHEN: Thursday, April 20, 10:00 a.m. MDT

(East High School Prism Club v. Seidel, No. 2:00-CV-0311K)


Peg Byron, Lambda, 212-809-8585 x 230, 888-987-1984 pager
Jon Davidson, Lambda, 323-937-2728 x 228
Carole Gnade, ACLU, 801-521-9862
Shannon Minter, NCLR, 415-392-6257


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