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Boyd Cty. High Sch. Gay Straight All. v. Bd. of Educ. - 258 F. Supp. 2d 667 (E.D. Ky. 2003)

Rule:

Despite the mandates of the Equal Access Act (EAA), 20 U.S.C.S. § 4071 et seq., school districts retain significant discretion and authority over the type of activities, groups, and/or clubs in which students will be permitted to participate during noninstructional time. School districts retain the authority and latitude to establish their own courses and curriculum. In the exercise of that discretion, schools may structure their course offerings in such a way as to avoid application of the EAA. For instance, so long as the activities, groups, and/or clubs meeting at the school directly relate to the curriculum taught in those courses, the school district has not created a limited open forum and so the EAA has not been violated. Even in those circumstances where a limited open forum has been created, the EAA does not limit a school's authority to prohibit meetings that would materially and substantially interfere with the orderly conduct of educational activities within the school. 20 U.S.C.S. § 4071(c)(4). The EAA further preserves the authority of the school, its agents and employees, to maintain order and discipline on school premises, to protect the well-being of students and faculty, and to assure that attendance of students at meetings is voluntary.

Facts:

Plaintiff Boyd County High School Gay Straight Alliance ("Alliance") was an organization whose purpose was to provide students of Boyd County High School with a safe haven to talk about anti-gay harassment and to work together to promote tolerance, understanding and acceptance of one another regardless of sexual orientation. When the organization was approved, opponents of the organization staged an on-campus protest and a boycott on another day. Thereafter, defendant Board of Education of Boyd County, Kentucky (Board) held an emergency meeting and voted unanimously to suspend all clubs, both curricular and noncurricular, at the school for the remainder of the school year. Subsequently, the Alliance filed a motion for preliminary injunction federal district, alleging that the Board violated the Alliance's rights under the Equal Access Act and the First Amendment.

Issue:

Was the Alliance entitled to preliminary injunctive relief?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The court found that despite the Board's suspension of all clubs, many student organizations continued to use the school's facilities during non-instructional time and as such, the court ruled that the Board and school were maintaining a "limited open forum." The court also held that the individuals causing the disruptions were opponents of the organization, and as such, they would not be entitled to a "heckler's veto." Since the Alliance was likely to prevail, would be irreparably injured absent preliminary relief, and an injunction would not harm the Board or others and would serve the public interest, the court granted the motion for a preliminary injunction.

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