Pendleton Heights Gay-Straight Alliance (PHGSA) is a student-led organization for high school students at Pendleton Heights High School that provides gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, non-binary and allied students to meet and provide social, emotional, and educational support to one another. The principal at Pendleton Heights has indicated that PHGSA cannot publicize its existence on school bulletin boards or on the school’s radio station, while other curricular and non-curricular clubs at the school are able to do so.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana today filed a lawsuit on behalf of PHGSA claiming that the school has imposed undue, unequal burdens on the student group.
“This group aims to create an environment that provides support to students, during a time that otherwise might be increasingly difficult for LGBTQ students,” said Kit Malone, advocacy strategist at ACLU of Indiana. “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.”
By not allowing PHGSA to advertise and attract student members the group is severely hindered in its purpose as a place of shelter, support, and education, not just for LGBTQ students, but for all Pendleton Heights High School students.
The differential treatment of PHGSA violates the Equal Access Act, 20 U.S.C. § 4071, et seq., the First Amendment, and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
“Students at Pendleton Heights High School may participate in non-curricular clubs recognized by the school,” said Ken Falk, ACLU of Indiana legal director. “By creating additional hurdles for Pendleton Heights Gay-Straight Alliance such as censoring the group’s promotions and prohibiting fundraising, the school is infringing on these students’ rights.”