ACLU to represent students who say school is stalling on gay-straight alliance



KATHLEEN, Fla. — The American Civil Liberties Union says it will represent two students who have been unable to obtain permission to start a Gay-Straight Alliance at Kathleen High School in Polk County, Fla.

The Lakeland Ledger reports that 17-year-old students Rory Teal and Brenna Pelland said they began asking in November for the school’s principal to meet with them about starting the club — but say their requests have been put off.

A demand letter from the ACLU was sent Thursday to interim Polk County School Superintendent John Stewart and Wesley Bridges, general counsel for the school system.

The letter spells out the failed attempts on the part of the students to get permission for their club.

“Given the legal obligation to provide equal access and the perfectly appropriate subject matter of the proposed GSA, we expect this situation can be resolved quickly,” the letter said. “Please advise us by Monday, April 29, 2013, that the request to form a GSA at Kathleen High School has been approved and that it may immediately begin having meetings and activities as an approved noncurricular student club.”

The ACLU says it’s clearly illegal for schools to deny students the right to start this type of club, so a common tactic used by school officials is to just keep putting students off in hopes interest will dissipate.

In their proposal for the club, the students said they wanted the group to advocate for their members by hosting gay history assemblies, help educate others about the LGBT community, and hold a “teach the teachers” session to focus on helping staff better understand them and combat anti-gay bullying.

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