Close-Up of rainbow flag with crowd In background during LGBT Pride Parade. Getty Images.
A sixth grader who attends an online charter school tied to the Grantsburg School District and the ACLU of Wisconsin have filed a complaint with the school after administrators stopped the student from starting a Gay Straight Alliance.
Wren Prahl, who uses gender-neutral pronouns, is a student at iForward — a public online charter school for students from kindergarten through 12th grade. Prahl wanted to start a club for LGBTQ students to have a “space to be themselves.” But school administrators, citing multiple school rules, denied the request.
School administrators also suspended Prahl because of the dispute.
Prahl and the ACLU say the rules have not been applied to other clubs and extracurricular activities.
“I think that establishing the club would help students meet a lot of other kids, provide a space for them to be themselves, and a chance to connect to other people who might be dealing with some of the same things they are,” Prahl said in a statement. “The club could also really help other students learn about the different identities of their fellow students and teach people to be more accepting of others.”
First, the school administration said that any school organizations must be “academic.” Yet, according to its website, iForward offers clubs for Dungeons and Dragons, yoga, pets, horses, travel and Pirates Cove — which, from its online description, is for students to “play games, talk, share pics, and just enjoy the social side of online learning.”
The administrators also said that clubs can’t be student-led and must have a teacher sponsoring them. The ACLU states that multiple teachers, including a former administrator, would have led the club.
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When Prahl was attempting to recruit students — who live all over the state — to join the club, they used Google hangouts and the school’s email system. The use of these school systems resulted in Prahl’s suspension.
“iForward’s effort to stop students from forming a GSA is misguided, discriminatory and unjustified,” Elisabeth Lambert, an ACLU staff attorney, said in a statement. “The administration prevented Wren from starting a GSA on the grounds that it did not have anything to do with curriculum, and that it was student-led, but those claims are belied by the fact that the school allows several clubs that are not at all related to academics, and that the GSA had the support of both teachers and administrators. We are concerned that iForward is actively attempting to derail initiatives aimed at fostering diversity and inclusion, something every school should be embracing. It’s alarming that school officials are willing to take such extreme measures — even going so far as to punish students with suspensions — for simply wanting to start a club.”
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