Indiana School Accused of Singling Out LGBT Students

(CN) – A group of Indiana students claims officials in their school district prevented them from using the words “gay” and “LGBT” to describe their gay-straight alliance club and imposed restrictions that don’t apply to other student groups.

According to a lawsuit filed Friday in Fort Wayne federal court, school administrators at Leo Junior-Senior High School in Allen County did not allow the student club to be called Leo GSA, for gay-straight alliance, and instead decided on Leo Pride Alliance, in which “pride” is a school acronym for “Professionalism, Respect, Integrity, Diligence and Excellence.”

The students, represented by Kenneth Falk with the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, say not only can they not call their club by the desired name, they also cannot advertise what the club is about.

Leo Pride Alliance’s lawsuit against East Allen County Schools says the club’s purpose is to give students who are LGBT or questioning their identity an opportunity to meet together to get social, emotional and educational support from other students.

It was formed two years ago and currently has more than 30 members, the complaint states.

Group members claim they are not allowed to refer the club as a GSA and cannot use words such as “gay,” “GSA,” “LGBT” or any other language that refers to sexual orientation.

And even though other clubs at the school can meet outside of the classroom and participate in school fundraisers, Leo Pride Alliance cannot, according to the lawsuit.

“It asked to put up a bulletin board for LGBT history month as other school clubs have bulletin boards. However, it was initially told that it could put up a bulletin board only if members performed community service outside of the school, a requirement not imposed on any other club,” the complaint states. Very recently…the school administration has indicated that it may allow a bulletin board provided that it approves of its content.”

Leo Pride Alliance claims it is also required to send a list of all club members to all faculty, another condition not required for other student groups, and the disclosure has led to some students not attending meetings anymore.

The group argues the school has no rational reason for differential treatment and its actions violate the Equal Access Act, the First Amendment and the 14thAmendment.

Leo Pride Alliance seeks a ruling allowing it to be renamed Leo GSA and prohibiting the school from requiring its members’ names to be disclosed to all teachers.

Neither Leo Pride Alliance nor East Allen County Schools immediately responded to requests for comment Monday afternoon.

Jane Henegar, executive director of the ACLU of Indiana, called the differential treatment “unwarranted.”

“This group aims to create an environment that provides social, emotional and educational support to students, during a time that otherwise might be increasingly difficult for LGBTQ students,” she said in a statement.

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