The ACLU of Southern California today condemned the Board of Education of the Orange Unified School District for refusing to allow the creation of a Gay-Straight Alliance Club at El Modena High School.

'The board should be spending taxpayers' money on educating students, not on fighting lawsuits that they know they will lose,' said ACLU Associate Director Elizabeth Schroeder. 'The school board's disingenuous attempt to couch this as a sex education/curriculum issue has no merit. The district will not succeed in its efforts to pick and choose which student clubs to fund.'

'School systems should make public commitments to ensure that schools are safe places, free of discrimination, violence, and harassment for ALL students, including gay and lesbian youth,' continued Schroeder. 'Fear, isolation and loneliness lead many gay and lesbian teens to suicide. The creation of this club would give these students a life-saving support system.'

By denying the formation of the Gay-Straight Alliance, the board is in clear violation of 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 refusal could 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.