TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against a western Indiana school district seeking to force it to recognize a club for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students and those who support them.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Terre Haute contends the North Putnam Community School Corp. in Bainbridge, 35 miles west of Indianapolis, is violating the First Amendment rights of the Gay-Straight Alliance and the three students who are now members. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of those students at North Putnam High School — a senior, a junior and a freshman.
Acting school Superintendent Terry Tippin said Tuesday he’s aware of the lawsuit but said he had no comment. A lawyer for the school didn’t immediately respond to a message.
The school board voted Nov. 20 on whether to recognize the club and split evenly with one member abstaining. The effect was the club wasn’t approved.
Because the club hasn’t been recognized by the school board, the lawsuit says, its members aren’t allowed to meet at the school, promote its activities on school grounds or associate with the school in any way. Ken Falk, the ACLU of Indiana legal director, said there’s no reason for the school board to reject the club when it allows other clubs not sponsored by the school to meet at the high school.
The lawsuit contends that students who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender “or are perceived as such” have frequently been harassed and bullied at North Putnam High School. It says the students seeking approval for the club “believe that having a formal club that would meet during school non-instructional time would be extremely beneficial to these students as well as to the student body as a whole.”
The lawsuit also says the club’s ability to function is greatly diminished because the students are not able to meet at the same time that other clubs meet or advertise at school.
The lawsuit asks the court to declare that the school corporation has violated the Constitution, to grant an injunction requiring the corporation to approve the club’s application and order the corporation to pay attorney fees and award all other proper relief.