West Bend School Board must recognize Gay-Straight Alliance

West Bend School Board must recognize Gay-Straight Alliance

By Kaellen Hessel of the Journal Sentinel

Aug. 3, 2011 |(9) Comments


A federal judge decided that the West Bend School Board must recognize the Gay-Straight Alliance as an official school-sponsored club at the district’s high schools.

The decree, announced last week, also prohibits any current or future board members from retaliating against the club or anyone affiliated with it while under the court’s supervision for the next seven years. If the school board violates the terms of the agreement while under court supervision, the GSA can ask the same federal judge to enforce its ruling without having to file litigation again, Waring Fincke, a lawyer for the club, said Tuesday.

“The judge’s order is as clear as a bunch of lawyers can make it,” he said.

If a dispute does occur during the seven-year period, the student group and the school board must try to resolve it before entering into litigation, said Mary Hubacher, a lawyer representing the school board.

The dispute began when the school board denied the student group official status — even though the club had been meeting unofficially for years —  at its May 9 meeting. Official recognition allows a club to be in the yearbook, raise money on campus, post information in the schools and use the schools’ equipment and resources.

The lawsuit filed against the board stated the board’s action was in violation of the Equal Access Act and the First Amendment. After the lawsuit was filed, the board voted to rescind its previous vote and recognize the group if the lawsuit was dropped.

“In litigation the losers don’t get to dictate the terms of the lawsuit,” Fincke said.

In a news release, Fincke wrote it was necessary for the student group to “have long-term protection” due to the views of some board members and religious community leaders.

Hubacher pointed out that the school board approved the terms before entering into the agreement, and that the decree contained no admission of wrongdoing.