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|Alpharetta student sues school over denied LGBT-friendly prom policy|
|Written by Ryan Watkins|
|Thursday, 22 March 2012 11:18|
An Alpharetta High School student alleges in a lawsuit that he was forcefully removed from his student council position after advocating a change in the school's “Prom King and Queen” tradition to be more inclusive of LGBT couples.
According to the complaint, filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Georgia Atlanta District, Reuben Lack, who is straight, says that two Alpharetta High School faculty advisors told him that he was being removed as the school's Student Body President for “pushing personal projects.”
Lack alleges that he was removed over his “exercise of rights protected by the First Amendment.”
From the lawsuit:
At the January 12, 2012, meeting of the student council, Lack introduced a resolution to modify AHS’s “Prom King and Queen” tradition to make it inclusive to gay and lesbian students. Lack suggested a number of options, including changing the tradition simply to “Prom Court” so that a samesex couple could be elected.
Lack alleges that he followed proper procedure, but a faculty adviser demanded that the resolution be dropped.
Lack followed parliamentary procedure regarding the resolution, opening the floor to student debate about the issue. An extended debate about the issue occurred among the students. Werre, who was present as faculty advisor, interrupted the debate, and demanded that the topic be dropped. She instructed the students to cease discussing the topic, and dictated that the resolution would not be adopted, without any formal vote.
Lack reintroduced the resolution at the following student council meeting, but was again told by Werre that the topic would be dropped. The student council's faculty advisers, Emily Reiser and Michelle Werre, then informed Lack he was being removed from his position.
On February 8, 2012, Reiser and Werre called Lack into a meeting and informed him that he was immediately removed as Student Body President.
Reiser and Werre informed Lack he was being removed for “pushing personal projects” and advocating for “policy changes,” which was a reference to Lack’s advocacy to modify the “Prom King and Queen” tradition to make it more inclusive to gay and lesbian students.
UPDATE: Lack, a senior, has attended Alpharetta High School for four years. He's also been a member of the student council each of those four years. “Reuben is not your typical student council president,” Nathaniel Lack, Reuben's father said today by phone. “He's not your popular kid. He's not a football player or a cheerleader. He's your policy kid.”
Reuben has received sizable support from AHS's student body, his father added.
“Generally speaking, he's received tremendous support from the students. He represents the entire student body. There are people there who are just thrilled that he's out there, not just this issue. He wanted to let the students know that they were part of the community and were included.”
Lack's attorney said today that the case was about protecting Lack's First Amendment rights.
“There's a whole line of cases about First Amendment rights in schools,” Lack's attorney, James Radford, said today by phone. “Students retain their First Amendment rights so long as their speech is not substantially disruptive.”
Radford said he's not sure which direction the school district will take its defense.
"I don't know if we're going to have to fight them until the bitter end or if they'll willing to work with us. I'm going to do whatever I can to get him reinstated," Radford said.
Radford said he is confident in Lack's case.
"We're on the right side of the law and the facts on this case. I think we'll prevail," Radford said.
As far as the timing of the case, Radford says that he's asked for an immediate hearing, but so far, so dates have been set.
"We just filed the lawsuit. We've asked the court for an immediate hearing. We haven't gotten a date for that yet. We hope that it will be soon. Every day that passes is a day that he's deprived of an honor that he's earned," Radford added.
Lack is seeking to be reinstated as the school's Student Body President. He is also seeking punitive damages and legal fees.
Read the full lawsuit below:
Officials from the Fulton County Public Schools could not be reached for comment. Check back for additional updates.
Top photo: Alpharetta High School (via portal.fultonschools.org)
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