Gay and Straight Students Seek Injunction Against Salt Lake School Board

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Student group wants right to meet at school while legal challenge continues
November 13, 1998

(NEW YORK, November 13, 1998) -- In a Utah federal court, an alliance of gay and straight students seeking equal treatment at their school will ask for a preliminary injunction against the Salt Lake City school board, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund said Friday.

Lambda, as lead counsel, the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights sued the school board on behalf of the East High Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA) and three of its members.

On Monday, November 16, at a hearing in East High Gay/Straight Alliance v. Board of Education, Lambda Staff Attorney David S. Buckel will urge a United States District Court in Utah to order the Salt Lake City Board of Education to grant the GSA equal access to school facilities pending trial.

Alliances of gay and straight students have become increasingly common at schools around the country, often forming in response to anti-gay hostility and violence from other students.

In October 1995, the Salt Lake City GSA gained national attention when the Board, in a move to keep the group from meeting, terminated 46 school clubs deemed not directly linked to the curriculum. Under the federal Equal Access Act, a federally funded public school that allows any non-curricular club to use its facilities also must grant such access to all other non-curricular clubs, regardless of the views of those clubs' members. Schools cannot pick and choose among non-curricular student groups.

Since that action, however, non-curricular clubs like the Future Business Leaders of America, National Honor Society, and Improvement Council at East have been allowed to meet on Salt Lake City school grounds. Plaintiffs argue that these valuable groups, while non-curricular, should continue to meet, and that the GSA should be allowed to meet as well.

If granted, the injunction will force the Board to grant the GSA similar access to school facilities even as the lawsuit to lift the ban on non-curricular clubs continues.

Buckel will ask U.S. District Judge Bruce S. Jenkins to issue the injunction because of the likelihood that the plaintiffs will prevail on the merits of their claims. Plaintiffs already defeated the Board's motion to dismiss the lawsuit. And in September, a student interested in reviving the Young Democrats and environmental clubs at Salt Lake's West High School joined the case as a plaintiff. Numerous attempts to settle the lawsuit through mediation have been unsuccessful. WHAT: Hearing in East High Gay/Straight Alliance v. Board of Education regarding plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction to allow the GSA to meet on school grounds

WHO: Lambda Staff Attorney David S. Buckel argues for plaintiffs and, along with Stephen C. Clark of the ACLU of Utah, will speak with reporters on the court steps afterward

WHERE: United States District Court for the District of Utah; 350 South Main Street, Room 421, Salt Lake City

WHEN: Monday, November 16, 1998, 11 a.m.

(East High Gay/Straight Alliance v. Board of Education, Case No. 2:98CV193J)


Contact: Peg Byron 212-809-8585, 888-987-1984 pager


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