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LGBTQ Club at Indiana High School Wins Court Case

March 25th, 2022

An openly gay Texas judge was recently forced to remove a rainbow flag from her courtroom after a local defense attorney complained about bias.
A judge recently ruled that an LGBTQ club in an Indiana high school was unlawfully discriminated against by the school principal.

A judge recently stated that an LGBTQ club holds free speech rights both to exist as well as spread details about its activities at Pendleton Heights High School in Indianapolis, Indiana. The judge in this case stated that the school’s principal unlawfully prohibited the club’s advertisements, which were placed on school bulletin boards as well as other appropriate places around the school’s property. 

How the LGBTQ Club Lawsuit Arose

The principal at Pendleton Heights banned the LGBTQ club from advertising on the school bulletin board as well as advertising anywhere else on school property. The Pendleton Heights LGBTQ club, also known as the gay-straight alliance (GSA), subsequently initiated a lawsuit involving the violation of the rights of GSA members. The GSA argues this violation occurred because the GSA was granted fewer rights than other school organizations. 

The Court’s Opinion

The GSA stated that it was permitted to have meetings on the high school campus. The GSA, however, alleged that it was prohibited from using the bulletin boards, airing messages over the radio station at the school, or receiving a listing in the book published by the school. The American Civil Liberties Union then filed a lawsuit on the group’s behalf.

The school argued that all curriculum-related clubs were treated the same. The judge, who heard the case, however, disagreed. The court relied on the Supreme Court case Board of Education of Westside County to determine whether Pendleton Heights went against the terms of the Equal Access Act. 

The Supreme Court in Board of Education of Westside County distinguished between “non-curriculum-related” organizations at the school and those groups connected to the curriculum. An organization is considered related to a curriculum based on whether any of the following requirements are met: 

  • Participation must lead to credit being granted by the school
  • The subject matter of the organization must be connected to the course in its entirety, or 
  • A routinely offered course at the school must teach the subject matter 

Commentary About the Case

A lawyer on behalf of the LGBTQ club argued that the club should be treated the same as any other club enjoyed by students. The attorney additionally argued that the group is likely to experience “irreparable harm” if an injunction is not placed.

Attorneys for the South Madison Community school district claimed that the LGBTQ students requested special access because bulletin board announcements are reserved only for things directly connected to the school’s curriculum. 

The judge in the case argued that because the Outdoor Adventure Club was non-curriculum related and it was a non-curriculum organization, the GSA’s rights under the Equal Access Act were violated. 

The LGBTQ club also alleged First Amendment as well as equal protection clause claims, but the judge did not consider these issues. Instead, the judge found that that the elements of a preliminary injunction favored the GSA, even though the school responded that an injunction might very well lead to all non-curriculum related groups publicizing in the school and turn school announcements into a long and unmanageable matter and clutter the bulletin board. The judge found that these harms are minor, though. 

Tracking LGBTQ+ Rights

Each week, the Universal Life Church’s blog tracks the most noteworthy cases involving LGBTQ+ rights. Our blog strives to document these matters that explain both sides of each case.

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