Rankin school's 'gay club' decision faces opposition and legal c - WLBT.com - Jackson, MS

Rankin school's 'gay club' decision faces opposition and legal challenges

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - On Wednesday, the Rankin School district superintendent issued a statement that seeks to clarify its position when it comes to clubs that would support LGBT students.

RCSD Superintendent Dr. Lynn Weathersby says "[The] Rankin County School District does not promote discussion of sexuality by the students at school, that is a matter the parents need to discuss with their child or children at home in a private setting. The policy applies equally across the board to any student clubs."

That position now faces opposition and possible legal challenges from the Human Rights Campaign and the Mississippi ACLU.

The Human Rights campaign issued a press release responding to word that the District allegedly created that new policy when a group tried to start a 'gay club' at one of its schools.

“This policy sends a harmful message to LGBT students in Rankin County that they are not welcomed within their classrooms, at school functions or on the bus. The board's actions tell LGBT students that they should be ashamed of who they are and that their lives are valued less than their peers,” said HRC Mississippi State Director Rob Hill. “Keeping our children safe is critical. We demand the Superintendent, and the board, reverse its decision to publicly humiliate, degrade and embarrass LGBT young people. “

They also say the school board's actions "violate federal law," quoting the Department of Justice: "It shall be unlawful for any public secondary school which receives federal financial assistance and which has a limited open forum to deny equal access or a fair opportunity to, or discriminate against, any students who wish to conduct a meeting within that limited open forum on the basis of the religious, political, philosophical, or other content of the speech at such meetings."

The American Civil Liberties Union has sent a letter to the Superintendent asking the school to cease and desist their new policy


In their letter, the ACLU cites several cases in which the courts upheld students' rights to form organizations that support LGBT students, such as Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs). 

They say there are cases dating back to the 1990's that demonstrate students have the legal right to start clubs that provide a safer school environment, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. 

The school has not yet responded to the criticism, the challenges, or the ACLU's letter.

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