PENDLETON – Claiming that the school district does not allow it to exercise the same rights as other clubs, the student-run Pendleton Heights Gay-Straight Alliance (PHGSA) is suing the school and the school society.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana (ACLU), on behalf of the PHGSA, filed a lawsuit on Wednesday September 22, according to the ACLU, claiming that the school imposed undue and unequal charges on the group.
The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court, Southern District of Indiana, Division of Indianapolis.
South Madison Community School Corp. Superintendent Mark Hall said as of Tuesday, September 28, they had not received any court documents.
âThe complaint was not served on us,â Hall said. âDue to the ongoing litigation, I cannot comment. “
The PHGSA provides gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, non-binary, and allied students a place to meet, as well as social, emotional and educational support for one another.
PHGSA is considered an unofficial club at the school.
According to the lawsuit, Pendleton Heights principal Connie Rickert ruled that the PHGSA can meet, but cannot publicize its existence on school bulletin boards or WEEM (the school’s radio station), while d other school and non-school groups can do this.
He cannot fundraise on school property or advertise on school grounds.
The lawsuit claims that the differential treatment given to PHGSA violates the First Amendment rights of the group and its members and violates the Equal Access Act and the 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause.
âThis group aims to create an environment that provides support for students, during a time that might otherwise be increasingly difficult for LGBTQ students,â said Kit Malone, advocacy strategist at the ACLU of Indiana, in a press release. âThe differential treatment that administrators give the Pendleton Heights Gay-Straight Alliance is unwarranted and these students should be treated the same as all other student groups. “
The statement says that by not allowing PHGSA to advertise and attract student members, the group is severely hampered in its goal of providing accommodation, support and education, not just for students. LGBTQ, but for all students at Pendleton Heights High School.
âStudents at Pendleton Heights High School can participate in non-
school clubs recognized by the school, âsaid Ken Falk, legal director of the Indiana ACLU. “By creating additional obstacles for the Pendleton Heights Gay-Straight Alliance, such as censoring group promotions and banning fundraising, the school is violating the rights of these students.”
This is not the first time that the group has had problems with the school.
In May, towards the end of the 2020-21 school year, PHGSA members and their families, area residents and other concerned citizens spoke to the school board about its disapproval of a decision. council to remove LGBTQ pride flags from classrooms in Pendleton Heights.