Reuben Lack Hub

What Happened With Reuben Lack

6a00d8341c730253ef016764305490970b-500wiThe week before last, Andy and I wrote about Reuben Lack, the former student council president of Alpharetta High, in Atlanta, who was allegedly dismissed from his position for trying to make prom more LGBT friendly.

Some of Lack's schoolmates showed up in the comments threads, claiming there was more to the story. Now it seems a judge agrees with them. Although Lack was dismised partially for non-offenses (stumping for his debate team in a speech to freshmen; engaging in an impolitic discussion of school matters on Facebook) which, if they constituted the sole rationale for his dismissal would be deemed legally inadequate, US District Judge Richard W. Story also saw evidence that Lack was an unsteady and unreliable officer.

From Judge Story's 12-page decision:

Once the Plaintiff proves his protected speech motivated the Defendants’ decision, the burden then shifts to the Defendants to prove that they would have made the same decision anyway. The Court finds that there is evidence which supports such a decision: 1) Plaintiff did not attend Homecoming Decoration day, wear spirit-week attire, or sell Homecoming tickets, even though Plaintiff sent the rest of the Council emails which reminded the others of their duty to do so and Plaintiff had previously agreed to complete those tasks ...

... After being repeatedly told that meetings would occur before school because Werre and the student-athlete members could not attend afternoon meetings, Plaintiff continued to unilaterally schedule afternoon meetings and undermined the faculty advisors’ authority ...

... Plaintiff routinely cancelled meetings the day before they were to occur without permission of the faculty advisors ...

... Plaintiff unilaterally removed a Student Council member after being told not to by the faculty advisors ...

... Defendants took a survey in October 2011 which revealed that the current meeting procedure was too “formalized” for many students and that some felt the Council had become a “dictatorship” under Plaintiff’s leadership ...

... Plaintiff did not attend the Alpharetta’s Best Dance Crew tryouts, practice, planning, or event, even though this was a Student Council event ...

... the Court finds that Werre and Reiser have been counseling Plaintiff on an ongoing basis about his failures since September 2011, and Werre and Reiser even went to discuss the issue with their principal, Kersey, on three occasions prior to terminating the Plaintiff ...

And most importantly:

While the Court is concerned about the timing of his removal -- that being within a month of the Prom Court issue and a week of the Facebook conversation -- the Court finds that the evidence supports a conclusion that the removal was precipitated by Plaintiff’s failure to send an email about a class president’s meeting after being personally told to do so by Rieser on February1, 2012, and his failure to attend that meeting the next day.

The judge sums up:

This is not to say that the Court does not value Plaintiff’s zeal to change policy, or that the Court does not recognize the importance of championing the cause of inclusion for all students in school activities. Plaintiff clearly accomplished much in the way of policy changes–he helped remove the cafeteria’s “utensil tax,” got microwaves for the cafeteria, was assisting in getting bike racks installed at the school, and was concerned that all students felt included at Prom. However, the Court ultimately finds that his frequent failure to complete or attend any “spirit tasks” and continual undermining of the faculty advisors is sufficient to preclude a finding of a substantial likelihood of success on his First Amendment retaliation claim. As the Eighth Circuit has recognized, “discipline, courtesy, and respect for authority” are legitimate pedagogical concerns ...


Reuben Lack And His Attorney Overwhelmed By Media Attention; Remain Resolute


Yesterday, Andy told the story of Reuben Lack, the student council president of Atlanta's Alpharetta High School, who was allegedly removed from the presidency after he proposed making prom more gay-friendly. (He intended to alter the rules of Prom King- and Queen-ship so that LGBT folk might be eligible.) Lack was, and is, suing Alpharetta over the matter.

Andy wasn't the only one reporting the story. It's been all over the web and the television and the presses, and it's come as a bit of a shock to Alpharetta, Lack, and Lack's attorney -- a Mr. James Radford, who has now posted a plea for sanity to his website: 

Did we predict [Reuben's story] would explode the way it has? Not in my wildest imagination.

I have no “PR Department,” no formal means of publicity. I don’t even have a secretary. I am a one-man show, having been a solo practitioner for less than 6 weeks at the time this story broke. I issued a short statement on my blog, including a copy of the complaint and our motion for injunction. I contacted two Atlanta-area TV reporters who I knew personally, because I thought they might be interested in the story. And Reuben’s family and friends shared my blog post on Facebook.

Within 48 hours, we were being contacted by the Associated Press, Reuters, LGBT publications throughout the country, XM satellite radio, and the list goes on. The story went international. I was personally overwhelmed with media inquiries, and also messages of support. We tried to accommodate the media requests as best as possible, and gave interviews to three local news stations, the Georgia Voice, and the reporter from AP.

This was initially very exciting. But the story may have gotten too big, too fast, and I believe the students, faculty, and administration at Alpharetta High School have found themselves overwhelmed. I know Reuben and his family have felt overwhelmed. Reuben is just a kid who wants to finish his term of class president, something that is very important to him, and something that he earned through his own hard work and persistence.

But as Lack's story gained media traction, some claimed otherwise: That Lack had been removed from his position due to poor leadership and general flakiness. As Mr. Ratford notes, this seems unlikely: The school administration never griped about Lack until he tried to make prom more gay-friendly.

Nevertheless, Lack's got a lot of enemies in his school, and they're vicious. They've been throwing invective all over Twitter, making fun of Lack's backpack (it apparently has rollers; hashtags such as "#rollingbackpackboyprobz" and "#ihopereubensbackpackgetsaflat" are common) and his alleged sexuality and/or lack of intelligence ("f*** reuben and his gay ass. he is stupid as f***"), and braying homophobic nonsense in a way that suggests nobody's told Atlanta's children that they will one day have HR professionals picking through their internet histories. ("If Reuben Lack is reinstated as student council president I'm dropping out. I don't want to see a guy in a tiara win prom queen.") Mr. Ratford features all of this ugliness and more on his website, which will hopefully serve as notice to somebody. Young Alpharettans may be too stupid to know it, but when your bullying tweets are republished by an angry attorney, the situation has become serious. 

Student Council President Sues Georgia H.S. After He's Removed for Pro-Gay Prom Proposal: VIDEO


Andrew briefly mentioned this yesterday, but I thought I'd post this great interview with Reuben Lack, who was elected student council president at suburban Atlanta's Alpharetta High School this year, but removed from his position by the school because of a proposal he made to help gay students feel more accepted.

Lack has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Fulton County School System, Alpharetta High principal Shannon Kersey, and faculty advisors Emily Reiser and Michelle Werre demanding Lack's reinstatement and damages.

Georgia's 11 Alive reports:

Earlier this year, Lack said he proposed changing the structure of the senior prom -- eliminating the prom king and prom queen for more gender-neutral titles. He said he pitched it to be more accommodating to gay students at Alpharetta High. But he says the student council never debated it because faculty advisers intervened.

"The teacher moderators were visibly agitated," Lack said.  "They were very, very uncomfortable about it. To the point where they were almost angry."

Within a few days, Lack said the school administration removed him from his position as student council president.

Watch an interview with Lack about the situation, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Student Council President Sues Georgia H.S. After He's Removed for Pro-Gay Prom Proposal: VIDEO" »


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