Indiana school banned Gay-Straight Alliance from saying ‘gay’ and ‘LGBT’

A Gay-Straight Alliance school bus takes part in a Pride parade

A lawsuit has alleged that a Gay-Straight Alliance group at an Indiana school was ordered to change its name and avoid using the terms “gay” and “LGBT+.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed the lawsuit against Leo Junior/Senior High School in Leo-Cedarville, Indiana, a small town with a population of 3,600.

The lawsuit alleges that students at the school had sought to establish a Gay-Straight Alliance, as operated in more than 4,000 schools across the US.

School administrators allegedly refused to permit the club name Leo Gay-Straight Alliance because it contains the word “gay.” The group was instead given the name Leo Pride Alliance by school administrators.

According to the lawsuit, staff also warned that the students “may not use the words gay, lesbian, queer, GSA [or] LGBT+… in any of the announcements or promotions for the club.”

Photo of Leo Junior/Senior High School outside cars. The school is facing a lawsuit from the Gay-Straight Alliance

Leo Junior/Senior High School is facing a lawsuit from the Gay-Straight Alliance

Unlike other clubs at the school, the Leo Pride Alliance members were told they are “not permitted to meet outside of a single classroom or participate in school fundraisers,” and a request for a bulletin board to promote LGBT History Month was also initially denied.

The Pride Alliance faculty advisor was also told to “send a list of all club members” to staff, according to the lawsuit—a requirement not imposed on any other student group.

Lawsuit seeks to restore the name Leo Gay-Straight Alliance

The lawsuit, filed in United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, seeks an injunction “to allow Leo Pride Alliance to be renamed Leo GSA” that would also require the GSA “to be treated identically with other clubs in all respects.”

It also seeks to “enjoin [the school] to allow the club and its members to use such terms as gay, straight, lesbian, queer, transgender, bisexual, LGBT+, or other similar terms, in discussing the club and club activities in the school.”

“The differential treatment aimed at Leo Pride Alliance by administrators is unwarranted.”

— Jane Henegar, ACLU of Indiana

Jane Henegar, executive director of ACLU of Indiana, said: “This group aims to create an environment that provides social, emotional and educational support to students, during a time that otherwise might be increasingly difficult for LGBTQ students.

“The differential treatment aimed at Leo Pride Alliance by administrators is unwarranted.”

ACLU of Indiana legal director Ken Falk, added: “Students at Leo Jr. Sr. High School may participate in extracurricular clubs recognized by the school.

“By creating additional hurdles for the Leo Pride Alliance, and censoring the groups name, the school is infringing on these students’ rights.”

East Allen County Schools is yet to respond to the lawsuit, but a spokesperson said: “We take the rights of our students seriously. We are looking into this matter.”