CHAMBERSBURG, PA, March 20, 2013 (LifeSiteNews) – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is threatening a Pennsylvania school district with legal action after the school board voted 5-4 to block the formation of a “Gay-Straight Alliance” (GSA) at a local high school.
The ACLU gave the Chambersburg Area School District a Wednesday deadline to reverse its decision before the ACLU moved forward with the suit. But on early Wednesday afternoon, a district representative who asked not to be named told LifeSiteNews by phone that the original decision to bar the club still stands.
As to whether the school board might yet change their minds in the face of legal action, the employee said, “No decision has been made at this time.”
The ACLU of Pennsylvania and homosexual advocacy group Equality PA originally wrote to the district on March 12 demanding they reverse their decision within three days, or be sued in federal court.
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According to Witold Walczak, ACLU-PA legal director, the school board asked for a one-month extension. The ACLU gave them an extra five days to capitulate, giving them until today.
“What we asked them to do was authorize the club and give them all the benefits and privileges that extend to other clubs,” Walczak told Public Opinion News. “That's a non-negotiable request. They're either going to do it or not do it. They're either going to say it's done by [Wednesday] or say or it's not done.”
The ultimatum is characteristic of the group, which frequently hits small towns and school districts with surprise threats of legal action in a matter of days if their demands are not met. Walczak says their intimidation tactics usually work.
“We've never had to go to court on this issue,” Walczak, told Public Opinion. “We went back and pulled records on the issue. Since 2009, Chambersburg would be the fourth district we have had to send a letter to. All three settled before court.”
Walczak claims the board’s decision to ban the gay club was a violation of the federal Equal Access Act.
“If the school board allows any noncircular clubs, then they have to allow the Gay-Straight Alliance,” Walczak said. The school currently allows a Bible Club and other non-educational groups.
Gay-Straight Alliances have been a hot-button issue in Canada. In Ontario the recently passed Bill 13 has mandated that all schools, including Catholic schools, must allow Gay-Straight Alliances. The bill was amended at the 11th hour to make it clear that Catholic schools could not refuse the clubs, after the province’s Catholic bishops had expressed opposition.
After the passage of the bill, President Sam Hammond of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario said, “Just as all teachers are expected to stand up against racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination, so too must they stand up and protect students from homophobia and transphobia.”