The ACLU of Southern California today announced that it would pursue legal action against the Board of Education of the Orange Unified School District if it refuses to allow a Gay-Straight Alliance Club at El Modena High School.

"Failure of the board to permit the proposed club to form and meet like other non-curriculum clubs at El Modena would have serious legal consequences," said Michael Small, the ACLU's chief counsel. "It is laudable that students are seeking to come together to start a critically important dialogue on tolerance and understanding of issues related to sexual orientation. Indeed, it is just that sort of conversation that public school officials should be fostering. Instead of encouraging that discussion, however, the school board seems intent on stifling it."

By denying the formation of the Gay Straight Alliance, the board would violate the freedoms of expression and association that are guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and by parallel articles in the California Constitution. The board's action could also have a significant impact on the district's eligibility for federal education funds under a statute that prohibits public schools from discriminating against student clubs on the basis of a club's philosophical or political viewpoint.

"We understand the board will vote on this issue on November 18," added Small. "Should the board fail to vote to allow the club to form and meet, it can be sure that swift and severe legal consequences will follow."