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A bit of hopeful news to start the final month of the year from-the ACLU of North Carolina:

Lake Lure School Board Votes to Reinstate LGBTQ+ and Other Student Clubs

LAKE LURE, N.C. – The Board of Directors of Lake Lure Classical Academy voted in a special session last night to lift its ban on student-led clubs. A new policy will require K-8 students, but not high school students, to obtain parental consent to join clubs.

The board had suspended all student-led noncurricular clubs after some community members challenged an LGBTQ+ club that was recently formed to promote tolerance and equality for all students. The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) had urged the school to rescind the ban and provide equal treatment to all student-run clubs, including the LGBTQ+ club.

“We commend the board for allowing all student-run clubs to have equal access to school resources,” said Chris Brook, Legal Director of the ACLU-NCLF. “Federal law requires all students clubs – whether it’s a chess club, Bible study group, or Gay-Straight Alliance – to be treated equally. It’s also important that the new policy allows high school students to exercise their First Amendment right to decide what clubs to join. Students should be free to join LGBTQ+ and Gay-Straight Alliance clubs that seek to create a safe space and promote equality for all students on campus. ”

In a Nov. 18 letter, the ACLU-NCLF explained that the federal Equal Access Act forbids schools from permitting some student groups while barring others. LLCA has a history of allowing noncurricular students organizations, including a campus Christian organization that has met on campus for five years.

The ACLU-NCLF’s letter is available at http://acluofnc.org/files/letters/ACLUNC_Letter_to_LLCA_LGBTQ_Club.pdf

Commentary
Sen. Phil Berger

Sen. Phil Berger

One would have thought it tough to top the shameless pandering that Gov. Pat McCrory has engaged in in recent days over the issue of the rights of transgender people. As is explained in this morning’s edition of the Weekly Briefing, McCrory plumbed new depths this week with his embarrassing effort to limit the rights of a Virginia boy trying to live as who he is.

The Governor even went so far as to issue a statement in which he essentially said that transgender people do not exist, but are merely people of one gender masquerading as people of the other.

Now, however, comes word that it may be possible to outdo McCrory. Yesterday, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger issued a statement attacking Attorney General Roy Cooper for not joining McCrory’s pro-discrimination effort. Berger even issued the following through-the-looking-glass tweet:

“Shame on AG for Putting Politics Above Student Safety”

You got that?! Berger is attacking Cooper for playing politics. This is like Vladimir Putin accusing the people of Crimea of aggression against Russia.

The bottom line: If not joining a lawsuit designed to deny basic human rights to a mild mannered 16 year old boy is “playing politics,” North Carolina could use a whole lot more a such “play” and a whole lot less of whatever it is that Berger is shoveling.

Commentary

As reported here this week:

“A Lake Lure charter school suspended all of its extra-curricular clubs last week after controversy erupted over a new club that supports lesbian, gay and transgender students.

The board of directors for Lake Lure Classical Academy, which serves students from kindergarten through high school in Rutherford County community, voted for the temporary suspension of extra-curricular activities Thursday.”

Today, the ACLU of North Carolina called on the school to reverse its decision:

“Lake Lure Classical Academy (LLCA) should promptly rescind its ban on all student-led noncurricular groups, including an LGBTQ+ student organization that was recently formed to promote tolerance and equality for all students, according to a letter sent today by the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) to school officials.

At its November 12 meeting, the LLCA Board of Directors voted to suspend all student-run clubs after some community members challenged the new LGBTQ+ club. In today’s letter, ACLU-NCLF Legal Director Chris Brook explains that the federal Equal Access Act forbids schools from permitting some student groups while barring others. LLCA has a history of allowing noncurricular students organizations, including a campus Christian organization, Raptors for Christ, that has met on campus for five years.

“The LGBTQ+ club does not seek special treatment,” Brook writes in the letter. “They simply seek to be treated the same as other student groups on campus, a right guaranteed to them by the Equal Access Act.”

Read the entire letter by clicking here.

Commentary
Former federal Education Sec. Margaret Spellings at Friday's UNC Board of Governors meeting.

Former federal Education Sec. Margaret Spellings at last Friday’s UNC Board of Governors meeting.

NC Policy Watch friend Jim Neal, a veteran North Carolina equality advocate and former U.S. Senate candidate, has authored a compelling op-ed critiquing the apparent choice to head the UNC system, Margaret Spellings. The essay, which appears in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer highlights the fact that Spelllings’ background as a conservative culture warrior who has, more than once, made it her public business to denigrate LGBT Americans makes her unfit to serve as head of a great university.

Here’s Neal:

“On the second day of her job as secretary of education in the George W. Bush administration in 2004, Margaret Spellings sent a letter to the CEO of PBS demanding that a children’s show that featured a lesbian couple be pulled from the air. Two weeks later, PBS’s CEO stepped down.

Spellings went to Washington as a former lobbyist-turned-political director to Bush during his first gubernatorial campaign in which he defeated incumbent Texas Gov. Ann Richards by using coded L-word, dogwhistle language as the linchpin in a campaign strategy devised by Karl Rove – who introduced Spellings to Bush….

As the leading candidate to succeed a man of unimpeachable integrity and grace, Spellings profiles as a career political operative, lobbyist, Rove protégée and cultural warrior, the antithesis of recent leaders both Democratic and Republican who have ably led the foremost statewide university system in the nation.”

Read the entire essay by clicking here.

Commentary

Emily Atkin of Think Progress has posted seven great questions put forth by progressives — including former Equality NC director Ian Palmquist — that ought to be posed of all presidential candidates, including the five Democrats who will debate on CNN tonight:

1)“What do you think are the top three things the next president needs to do in order to make sure fewer families have to go through the pain that mine has?” – Erica Lafferty Smegielski, daughter of deceased Sandy Hook Elementary School principal Dawn Hochsprung.

2) “Will you engage in aggressive litigation against the fossil fuel industry’s conspiracy of climate denial, as the Clinton administration did against the tobacco industry?” – R.L. Miller, president of Climate Hawks Vote.

3) “What would you do to prevent the racially charged attacks on the right to vote?” – Sean McElwee, research associate at Demos.

4) “When you step into office, will you commit … [to use] your authority to immediately end leasing of public fossil fuels in the U.S.?” – Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth Action.

5) “What will you do to ensure that young people maintain access to critical healthcare services despite growing conservative attacks on birth control, abortion, and other services?” – MS Keifer, policy analyst at Advocates for Youth.

6) “Will they work to eliminate all mandatory minimum drug sentences? And how would they allocate federal funds and specifically design programs to prevent recidivism?” – Zellie Imani, Black Lives Matter activist and New Jersey teacher.

7) “What would your administration do to make sure young LGBT youth are getting education, not incarceration?” – Ian Palmquist, director of leadership programs for Equality Federation.

Click here to read the entire article and the full explanations of each question.