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Gay-Straight Alliance sues Pendleton Heights principal over ‘unofficial’ status

PENDLETON, Ind. (WISH) — A student group has filed a federal lawsuit after being told it’s “unofficial.”

The designation means Pendleton Heights Gay-Straight Alliance cannot publicize its existence on bulletin boards or on the high school’s radio station, or raise funds on school property as “official” student groups can.

Pendleton Heights Gay-Straight Alliance, however, recently received permission to resume meetings with a faculty sponsor after school hours at Pendleton Heights High School. The suit filed Wednesday in federal court in Indianapolis is against the South Madison Community School Corp. and Connie Rickert, the high school principal.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed the lawsuit on behalf of the student group at the Madison County school. A news release from the ACLU of Indiana said the group “provides gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, non-binary and allied students to meet and provide social, emotional, and educational support to one another.”

The lawsuit argues the principal’s actions create hurdles that other student groups don’t face.

“The differential treatment aimed at Pendleton Heights Gay-Straight Alliance by administrators is unwarranted and these students must be treated in the same manner that all other student groups are treated,” said Kit Malone, advocacy strategist at the ACLU of Indiana, in the release.

The lawsuit asks the court to show that the district violated federal law and free-speech rights in the U.S. Constitution, and to give the Pendleton Heights Gay-Straight Alliance the same privileges as any other student groups.

There was no immediate comment from the school district.

Pendleton Heights High School, which has about 1,400 students, is about 14 miles northeast of Indianapolis.