FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Dotty Griffith, ACLU of Texas, (512) 478-7300 x106 or 923-1909; [email protected]
Robyn Shepherd, ACLU national, (212) 519-7829 or 549-2666; [email protected]
CORPUS CHRISTI – The Board of Trustees of Flour Bluff Independent School District in Corpus Christi granted permission late Tuesday night to students to form a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) club on the campus of Flour Bluff High School after the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Texas had intervened on behalf of Nikki Peet, a high school student who had been denied permission to start the club. The school had previously threatened to prevent all extracurricular groups from meeting rather than allow the GSA to form.
GSAs are student-run extracurricular clubs that bring together lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and straight students to support each other and promote tolerance, and are common in public school districts throughout Texas and the nation.
“I’m so glad that the school board is doing the right thing and letting us meet just like any other club at school,” said Peet. “It shouldn’t have taken this long and this much struggle to start a club whose purpose is to make our school a safer space for all students. We can’t wait for the first meeting.”
Peet first approached Principal James Crenshaw in November 2010 with a request to form a GSA. In response, Crenshaw asked her to change the club’s name and mission. She submitted a revised proposal in January 2011, which the school again denied. The ACLU sent a notice letter which said that denying the GSA the ability to meet would violate the First Amendment and the Equal Access Act, which requires schools to treat extracurricular clubs equally.
“Public schools should promote tolerance and acceptance of diversity, rather than discrimination,” said Christine P. Sun, senior counsel with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. “Flour Bluff has done the right thing by granting all students a chance to support this important cause, and we’ll be watching to make sure that the district lives up to its promise.”
Students and activists from around the country have expressed support for Peet and for the GSA. A petition circulated by Change.org garnered over 54,000 signatures, and local activists held a rally outside of the school on March 4. Though the school district has yet to confirm the policy in writing, the school board voted to allow all extracurricular clubs, including the GSA, to meet on campus for at least the remainder of the school year following a four-hour closed session meeting on March 8.
“The outpouring of support for Nikki and for the GSA shows that there is a real need for clubs like this to help young people feel safe and secure about who they are,” said Lisa Graybill, Legal Director for the ACLU of Texas. “We are glad that the Flour Bluff school board has recognized the free speech rights of Nikki and her peers.”
For a copy of the demand letter, click here.