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LGBT Student Group Sues East Allen County Schools

Leo Pride Alliance charges high school principal forced it to drop "gay" from its name, restricted use of bulletin boards and classrooms

(FORT WAYNE, Ind.) - A gay-and-lesbian student group is accusing a northeast Indiana school system of discrimination.

Leo Junior-Senior High School allowed the formation of a student Gay-Straight Alliance two years ago, but the American Civil Liberties Union charges the principal would only let them meet in the faculty advisor's classroom, and demanded a list of the 30 or so members be circulated to all teachers. ACLU Indiana legal director Ken Falk says that violates the federal Equal Access Act -- any non-curricular club has to be treated the same as all the others.

And Falk argues the school violated both the law and the First Amendment by banning the use of words like "gay" and "lesbian," including in the name of the club. He says the principal required the group to call itself the Leo Pride Alliance, in reference to the school's acronym-motto of "Professionalism, Respect, Integrity, Diligence, Excellence." And the lawsuit charges the school refused to allow the group to post information on a school bulletin board. The ACLU charges the principal first said they'd have to perform community service before they could use the board, then dropped that requirement but insisted on preapproving all postings. The lawsuit says other clubs didn't face any such restrictions.

East Allen County Schools spokeswoman Tamyra Kelly said in a brief statement, "We take the rights of our students seriously. We are looking into this matter."

(Photo: Brian A. Jackson/Thinkstock)

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