Saturday, August 30, 2008

8th Circuit Interprets Non-Curriculum Group For Purposes of Equal Access

In Straights and Gays for Equality (SAGE) v. Osseo Area Schools, (8th Cir., Aug. 29, 2008), the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals interpreted the federal Equal Access Act. The statute requires that high schools receiving federal funds must treat all non-curriculum related groups alike in granting access to school premises. Discrimination on the basis of the religious, philosophical, political or other content of speech at meetings of a student group is banned. Applying a definition of non-curriculum related groups developed by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 1990 case, the 8th Circuit decided that another school group that plans school dances and events at Maple Grove (MN) High School is non-curricular, just like SAGE, a group designed to promote tolerance and respect for gays and lesbians. However the other group was given greater access to school communication channels by being improperly classified as a curricular group. The court affirmed the granting of a permanent injunction giving SAGE the same access to school facilities. Jurist reports on the case and its background, as does Friday’s Minneapolis Star-Tribune.