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Pendleton Heights Gay-Straight Alliance sues school for alleged unfair treatment

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Posted at 8:10 PM, Sep 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-22 20:18:35-04

MADISON CO. — A local high school's LGBTQ student club is suing its school district after it says the principal has kept the group from publicizing its existence.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana on Wednesday filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Pendleton Heights High School's Gay-Straight Alliance (PHGSA) against the South Madison Community School Corporation, claiming that it violated the group's First Amendment rights and the Equal Access Act.

According to the ACLU, the Gay-Straight Alliance has been around in years past at the high school, but it was declining.

Although the group — which provides support for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, non-binary and allied students — was permitted by the principal to meet at the school outside of class time, it could not promote anywhere on school property, including the school bulletin boards or radio stations.

The school told PHGSA this is due to it being an "unofficial" school club. The principal holds the power of delegating a curricular or non-curricular school club an "official" group.

"Students at Pendleton Heights High School may participate in non-curricular clubs recognized by the school," Ken Falk, ACLU of Indiana's legal director, said. "By creating additional hurdles for Pendleton Heights Gay-Straight Alliance such as censoring the group's promotions and prohibiting fundraising, the school is infringing on these students' rights."
In a release, the ACLU stated that not allowing PHGSA to advertise the school is "severely" hindering the group as "a place of shelter, support and education."

Kit Malone, the advocacy strategist at the ACLU of Indiana, stated in the release, "The differential treatment aimed at Pendleton Heights Gay-Straight Alliance by administrators is unwarranted and these students must be treated in the same manner that all other student groups are treated."