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ACLU advocates for Gay-Straight Alliance, files lawsuit against school district

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A potential civil rights violation was enough to file a lawsuit against the Pendleton Heights High School principal and school district. A student organization of LGBTQ students and allies claims the principal shut down plans to advertise on campus to build membership.

The American Civil Liberties Union has taken the lead in this lawsuit on behalf of those students, saying that the school allows other so-called “non-official” student organizations to advertise on campus but threatened punishment if the LGBTQ group were to. And the ACLU says that’s a problem.

Pendleton Heights Gay-Straight Alliance versus the South Madison Community School Corporation lawsuit claims that the students were not allowed to advertise their meetings on school bulletin boards or radio and that they weren’t allowed to fundraise on campus.

“The student was told among other things that they’d be punished if they advertised. And so they reached out to us because they thought it was a violation of their civil rights,” said Kit Malone, ACLU advocacy strategist.

The Gay-Straight Alliance is a student-led LGBTQ and straight ally organization that provides support. Malone says LGBTQ students in particular face very high degrees of harassment and discrimination in their schools, so these types of organization hold extreme value.

“(To) have friends who share your common experience is incredibly valuable. There is a study by the Williams Institute that has shown that simply the presence of a GSA in a school reduces suicide rates,” she said.

The Gay-Straight Alliance is recognized as a non-curricular club, but isn’t an “official” organization, so it’s not able to advertise like other groups with “official” classification.

“It’s important for them to understand that … their LGBTQ students have rights,” said Malone.

News 8 has reached out to the principal and superintendent for comment.