ALPHARETTA, Ga. — A federal judge on Friday declined to reinstate a high school student council president who claimed he was removed from position after introducing an LGBT-friendly prom resolution, citing evidence the removal may have been for other offenses.
In a 12-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Richard W. Story said that although Reuben Lack’s removal as student body president at Alpharetta High School in Fulton County, Ga., may have violated his free speech rights, the school presented sufficient evidence to prove that it would have removed Lack regardless of the LGBT prom resolution.
While the Plaintiff engaged in protected speech which was a motivating factor in the Plaintiff’s removal, the Court finds that Plaintiff has not shown a substantial likelihood of success on the merits because the Defendants have presented sufficient evidence that they would have made the same decision to remove him even in the absence of the protected speech.
Lack, 18, had introduced a motion during a student council meeting January 12 that would have modified the school’s annual prom tradition in an effort to make the positions of prom king and queen more gender neutral to accommodate the high school’s LGBTQ students.
Lack said he tabled the motion after the faculty advisers became agitated and angry at the suggestion, but revisited the motion during a January 26 student council meeting. It was that action, he claimed, that resulted in his removal.
But an attorney for Fulton County Schools says Lack “was essentially a poor leader” and that’s why he was fired.
In his ruling, Story also noted:
While the Court is concerned about the timing of his removal … the Court finds that the evidence supports a conclusion that the removal was precipitated by Plaintiff’s failure to send an email about a class president’s meeting after being personally told to do so … on February 1, 2012, and his failure to attend that meeting the next day.
Lack’s attorney, James Radford, said Friday that the case is still moving forward, but the ruling likely means that Lack, a senior, will graduate before finalizing his lawsuit.