Thursday, March 3, 2011
CORPUS CHRISTI, TX – The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Texas intervened today on behalf of a high school student who has been denied the right to form a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) club at Flour Bluff High School in Corpus Christi, TX. GSAs are student-run extracurricular clubs that bring together lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and straight students to support each other and promote tolerance, and are common in public school districts throughout Texas and the nation.
Nikki Peet, 17, first approached Principal James Crenshaw in November 2010 with a request to form a GSA. In response, Crenshaw asked her to change the club's name and mission. She submitted a revised proposal in January 2011, which the school again denied. Students and advocates throughout the country have voiced their support for Nikki and the GSA in recent weeks. Today, the ACLU sent a demand letter to the Flour Bluff Independent School District (FBISD) that gives the district until March 9 to confirm that a GSA will be allowed on campus or face possible legal action. In the letter, the ACLU calls attention to the fact that the school's website shows that there are many extracurricular clubs on campus and the school cannot refuse to allow a GSA to meet without violating the First Amendment and the Equal Access Act.
"Officials from Flour Bluff Independent School District deny they are subject to federal law, but in fact, they are held to the same standard as other schools and must treat extracurricular groups equally, regardless of their students' religion, political affiliation or sexual orientation," said Christine P. Sun, senior counsel with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project. "It is discriminatory and unfair for the school to deny students the right to form a group that offers support for their peers to be themselves."
Instead of allowing the GSA to meet, FBISD administrators have reportedly moved to ban other extracurricular clubs. The ACLU letter points out that banning all extracurricular clubs is an unlawful prior restraint on Nikki's speech, similar to a Mississippi school district's efforts to cancel the prom in the ACLU's case on behalf of Constance McMillen.
"I am shocked and disappointed that my school district would rather punish students by eliminating extracurricular clubs than allow the formation of a club whose entire purpose is to promote tolerance," said Peet.
"No Texas public school student should be treated the way Nikki has been treated by the FBISD administrators, and no Texas public school district is above the law," said Lisa Graybill, Legal Director for the ACLU of Texas.
"Although we hope Flour Bluff ISD will remedy this problem immediately by allowing the GSA to meet, we are prepared to take whatever action is necessary to vindicate Nikki's and other students' rights," added Manuel Quinto-Pozos, staff attorney at the ACLU of Texas.
In addition to demanding the district allow the GSA to meet, the ACLU is also seeking all public information concerning the attempts to form a GSA at FBISD, including e-mails and correspondence between administrators regarding Nikki's request.
For a copy of the demand letter, please visit: www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights/aclu-letter-flour-bluff-independent-school-district-regarding-gay-straight-alliance-club