Arne Duncan Hub

15 Years After Landmark Ruling In Favor Of Gay Straight Alliances, School Districts Continue To Deny Them


Fifteen years after a landmark federal court ruling upholding the right of students to form Gay Straight Alliance clubs at public schools, some districts continue to violate the law by refusing to recognize GSAs.  

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against a school district in Bainbridge, Indiana — 35 miles west of Indianapolis — on behalf of three students and the GSA at North Putnam High School. 


The students formed the GSA at North Putnam more than a year ago, but after months of stalling, the school board voted Nov. 20 not to recognize the club. 

The ACLU alleges the district's failure to recognize the GSA violates both the federal Equal Access Act and the students' First Amendment rights: 

LGBT students at the school have frequently been harassed and wanted to form the GSA to provide a place to educate the community and support vulnerable students. The school, which allows other non-school-sponsored clubs and activities to meet, such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Key Club and Best Buddies, has denied recognition of the GSA club for more than a year. The students followed all the school's required procedures outlined in its student handbook to establish the club, including securing a faculty member to supervise the group. ... 

"The law is clear in this matter," said Ken Falk, ACLU of Indiana legal director. "There is no excuse for the school district's intransigence, which is causing real harm to its students."

The ACLU of Indiana was successful in reversing a similar decision by a school in the Town of Munster in July, 2014.

"The actions of the school district in clear violation of federal law leave the most vulnerable students at North Putnam without critically needed support," Chase Strangio, Staff Attorney at the ACLU added.

In November 1999, a federal judge ruled that the Salt Lake City school district's decision to reject a GSA at East High School violated the federal Equal Access Act. The Salt Lake district said it was banning all non-curricular clubs to get around the Equal Access Act, but continued to allow other clubs to meet. 

From Lambda Legal, which served as lead counsel in the Salt Lake City lawsuit: 

This case more than any other put the issue of GSAs on the nation's radar, letting students know they could fight back and letting school districts know they might be in violation of the law.

Apparently, some districts still haven't gotten the message. 

Read the ACLU's lawsuit, and watch U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan's video in support of GSAs from 2012, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

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Education Secretary Orders Equal Treatment of Gay Couples in Federal College Loan Applications

ArneduncanOn Friday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan (right) announced plans to treat same-sex and opposite-sex married couples the same in the eyes of the law regarding federal college loan applications. Students, and parents, who have married their spouses in any state where it is legal can now receive the same loans as their heterosexual counterparts, and the loans will be recognized throughout the United States (even if the school one attends is in a state where same-sex marriage is not recognized). 

Salon reports:

“We must continue to ensure that every single American is treated equally in the eyes of the law, and this important guidance for students is another step forward in that effort,” Duncan said in a statement...

“As students fill out their FAFSA this coming year, I’m thrilled they’ll be able to do so in a way that is more fair and just,” Duncan said, using the financial aid application’s acronym...

Friday’s move is the latest from the Education Department to be more helpful to students in same-sex marriages or with married gay parents.

This is an exciting step in providing sound and equal treatment by the federal government for all Americans. As a college student, I and my family are thankful for the loans we have been able to receive; it is important that anyone seeking higher education can do the same.

Check out the Department of Education announcement here.

U.S. Department of Education Releases 'It Gets Better' Video: VIDEO


Yesterday the U.S. Department of Education released an It Gets Better video. It comes less than a week after the department's groundbreaking decision to begin collecting data about anti-LGBT bullying in schools nationwide.

The video features several gay, lesbian and allied staff members and ends with a call to action from U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan:

"I really believe we can't just say 'It gets better.' All of us have to work right now to make things better today, not tomorrow. If you're a 14-year-old or a 15-year-old, asking you to wait four or five years for things to get better, that can seem like an eternity, like a lifetime. And so you shouldn't have to wait that long. So I wanna be very clear. All of us have the power now to make things better today, not tomorrow."

The video then directs viewers to

Watch the video, AFTER THE JUMP

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Department of Education to Collect Anti-LGBT Bullying Data Nationwide

GLSEN's executive director Eliza Byard reports:

GlsenJust a few minutes ago, the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Education made a groundbreaking announcement – it intends to collect data in schools nationwide about anti-LGBT bullying as part of its Civil Rights Data Collection, an influential survey that is used to inform government action.

I’m proud to say that GLSEN’s longtime leadership in Washington urging the government to take action played an integral role in making this change happen...

Byard attributes the change in part to  a trip to D.C. with three GLSEN student leaders to meet Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. She was told at the White House in May on Harvey Milk Day that because one of the students asked Duncan to investigate such data collection, he made the request to the department.

Adds Byard:

LGBT-inclusive data collection may seem like a wonky goal. But let me tell you, data drives decision-making, and what is measured is what is valued when it comes to government action. Liam, one of GLSEN’s amazing student leaders, secured a huge advance for LGBT youth nationwide.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan Endorses Marriage Equality on 'Morning Joe': VIDEO


A short time ago on Morning Joe, Mark Halperin tested out an idea he has for all administration officials following Biden's remarks over the weekend, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan was the first to face the Morning Joe crew.

Said Halperin: "Just a little icebreaker, Mr. Secretary, we're going to go throught the whole cabinet. Do you believe that same-sex men and women should be able to get legally married in the United States?"

Duncan: "Yes I do."

Halperin: "Have you ever said that publicly before?"

Duncan: "I don't know that I've ever been asked publicly."


(clip via Think Progress)

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Education Secretary Arne Duncan Marks First National Gay-Straight Alliance Day with Anti-Bullying Message: VIDEO


Obama's Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has posted a video on the White House blog marking the first annual Gay-Straight Alliance Day, which is today.

Says Duncan, in part: "When students are harassed or bullied, it directly affects their work in the classroom, their aspirations for the future, and their desire to stay in school. Gay-Straight Alliances and similar student groups play an important role in creating welcoming, affirming, and respectful schools and colleges – safe places where learning can happen and students flourish. This work is absolutely essential. GSAs are a proven tool for creating welcoming school climates and helping students stay in school."

The national GSA Day is a project of the Iowa Pride Network. Said Ryan Roemerman, IPN Executive Director: “Over the years other states were contacting us asking how they could replicate the event, so we decided to coordinate on a national level. The response from partnering state and national organizations has been extraordinary.”


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