Student Well-Being

Judge’s Approval of Club for Gay Students Leads to Protest

By Mark Walsh — February 16, 2000 2 min read

A club for gay students and their supporters met for the first time last week at El Modena High School in Orange, Calif., just days after a federal judge ordered the local school board to recognize the controversial student group.

More than 50 students attended the meeting of the Gay-Straight Alliance in the drama room on Feb. 9, while opponents of the club demonstrated outside the high school with shouts of “Stop gay clubs!”

Some El Modena High students reportedly scuffled with the protesters, shouting at them to “Shut up!” and “Go home!”

In response to the court ruling, the Orange school board last week considered eliminating all non-curriculum-related clubs. But on Feb. 10, the board moved to require written parental permission and a 2.0 grade point average for students to join clubs. Also, all clubs would be prohibited from discussing sexual activity under the proposed policy.

The board’s action was a response to the Feb. 4 ruling by U.S. District Judge David O. Carter of Santa Ana, Calif., who held that the district violated the federal Equal Access Act when officials turned down the request for the Gay-Straight Alliance to meet on the campus of El Modena High.

The federal law requires schools receiving federal aid to treat all non-curriculum-related student groups equally. It was enacted in 1984 with the backing of conservative organizations that argued student Bible clubs and other religious groups were being unconstitutionally barred from schools.

“Board members may be uncomfortable about students discussing sexual orientation and how all students need to accept each other, whether gay or straight,” Judge Carter wrote. But board members “cannot censor the students’ speech to avoid discussions on campus that cause them discomfort or represent an unpopular viewpoint.”

Jon W. Davidson, a lawyer with the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, which helped represent the club, said he was “delighted” with the ruling. “The judge agreed with us on nearly every legal point we raised,” he said.

Unanimous Vote

The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, a New York City-based support and lobbying group for homosexual educators and students, said there are about 700 clubs for gay students across the country.

The El Modena alliance’s mission statement says its goal is “to raise public awareness and promote tolerance by providing a safe forum for discussion of issues related to sexual orientation and homophobia.”

But the board of the 31,000-student district in Orange County voted 7-0 in December to deny the group’s application.

“To us, it would be sanctioning a club for discussing sexual issues,” board President Linda Davis said in an interview.

The backers of the club are part of a “movement to have the homosexual lifestyle promoted and accepted,” she said.

After the board’s December vote, club members sued in federal district court under the Equal Access Act.

Judge Carter rejected the district’s argument that the club was not subject to the act because the group’s subject matter was related to the district’s sex education curriculum.

He also ruled the board could not force a compromise plan in which the group would be called the Tolerance Club and prohibited from discussing sex education.

“The board’s suggested name change clearly infringes on profound expressive meaning that the group attaches to its name,” the judge said.

A version of this article appeared in the February 16, 2000 edition of Education Week as Judge’s Approval of Club for Gay Students Leads to Protest


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Classroom Technology Webinar
Here to Stay – Pandemic Lessons for EdTech in Future Development
What technology is needed in a post pandemic district? Learn how changes in education will impact development of new technologies.
Content provided by AWS
School & District Management Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Strategies & Tips for Complex Decision-Making
Schools are working through the most disruptive period in the history of modern education, facing a pandemic, economic problems, social justice issues, and rapid technological change all at once. But even after the pandemic ends,

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being Opinion Where Does Social-Emotional Learning Go Next?
Teachers, students, and parents all want more social-emotional and service learning in schools. The pandemic has only heightened that need.
John M. Bridgeland & Francie Richards
4 min read
Friendly group of people stand and support each other.
IULIIA/iStock/Getty Images Plus
Student Well-Being What the Research Says Masks, Tracking, Desk Shields: How Much Do School Measures Reduce Families' COVID-19 Risk?
A new study pinpoints the most effective mitigation measures and suggests that the more of them schools use, the better.
5 min read
Jennifer Becker, right, Science Teacher at the Sinaloa Middle School, talks to one of her students in Novato, Calif. on March 2, 2021.
Jennifer Becker, right, a teacher at Sinaloa Middle School, wears a mask to stem the spread of coronavirus as she talks with a student earlier this year in Novato, Calif.
Haven Daily/AP
Student Well-Being Opinion The One Thing Teachers Do That Hurts Student Motivation
When adults take over on a challenging task, kids are more likely to quit sooner on the next one. Here’s what to do instead.
Julia Leonard
1 min read
Images shows a stylized artistic landscape with soothing colors.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Whitepaper
The Complete Guide to SEL
This guide illustrates why SEL is more important now and what you should look for when implementing a social-emotional curriculum.
Content provided by Navigate360