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.

Date

Wednesday, December 8, 1999 (All day)

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The ACLU of Southern California claimed victory today after the Val Verde Unified School District dropped plans to post copies of the Ten Commandments on the walls of the school's offices. The school board's retreat came in the wake of the filing of a lawsuit last week by the ACLU, along with the law firm of Morrison and Foerster, on behalf of two families whose children attend school in Val Verde.

The ACLU argued in its court papers that the school board's plan violated the families' religious freedoms that are guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution. The ACLU also took the school board to task for their blatant disregard of the law, given that the U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that the posting of the Ten Commandments on public school property is illegal. (Stone v. Graham, 1980)

'It is unfortunate that it took the filing of a lawsuit for the school board to wake up and realize that its action was way out of constitutional bounds," said ACLU chief counsel Michael Small. 'This was not a case in which public school officials sought to integrate the Bible, including the Ten Commandments, into the curriculum in an objective manner as part of a general discussion of ethical and moral values, which is constitutionally permissible. Rather, the school board's scheme was all about indoctrinating impressionable children."

"The two families who came forward to challenge the board's plan, Rigoberto and Odelia Roman, and Juanita Franco, are deeply religious,' said Kobie Conner, an attorney at Morrison and Foerster. 'They do not believe, however, that it is the business of the public schools to teach religion. That is for families and children together in their homes and in their houses of worship. Perhaps now the school board will return to addressing the real educational needs of Val Verde's students."

Date

Tuesday, November 23, 1999 (All day)

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