A settlement was reached this month in which East Allen County Schools has agreed to allow Leo Pride Alliance to change its name to Leo GSA (Gay Straight Alliance), and to provide the organization with all meeting, communication and fundraising opportunities provided to other groups.
While this wasn't the first time the ACLU of Indiana has had to take on a public school for treating a GSA group differently than other student led organizations, we hope that public schools throughout the state will take notice and forgo future challenges by providing equal treatment to all student groups.
Leo Pride Alliance is a student-led organization for high school students at Leo Jr. Sr. High School that provides a safe and supportive environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and intersex students and their cisgender supporters. The lawsuit claimed that East Allen County Schools imposed undue, unequal burdens on Leo Pride Alliance. EACS denied these claims.
Gay Straight Alliance groups, such as Leo Pride, are critical in providing support, specifically when you look at the hurdles that LGBTQ youth are being faced with across the nation. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, in Indiana 3 in 4 trans youth will be harassed and bullied in school for being trans. This is unnaceptable. It is critical that public schools continue to do everything within their power to decrease bullying against LGBTQ students, and GSA groups have proven an effective method. Previous studies have found that students at schools with GSAs were less likely to face discrimination and had reduced suicide attempts.
We hope that Indiana schools will recognize the important purpose that GSA groups serve by creating an open environment that provides social, emotional and educational support to students, during a time that otherwise might be increasingly difficult.