The AJC is reporting that an Alpharetta High School senior filed a lawsuit this week contending that administrators removed him as student body president after he pushed for making the prom more inclusive to gay students.
This news story does not have a comment from Fulton County school officials, but I have gotten the statement from Fulton, which is posted below. First the story.
Reuben Lack, an 18-year-old senior at Alpharetta High School, filed the lawsuit this week in U.S. District Court. He’s asking a judge to issue an injunction reinstating him as student body president.
Lack said he introduced a resolution at a January student council meeting to modify the school’s “prom king and queen” tradition to make it more inclusive to gay students.
Lack says he was told by school officials Feb. 8 that he was immediately removed from his position for “pushing personal projects” and advocating policy changes. School officials couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Friday.
From Fulton. (This includes both a statement from the county and a summary from the system attorneys.)
We’ve taken a look at what the individual is alleging and it’s just not the case. The district is confident that as the details surface through the legal process they will support that. The principal and teachers at Alpharetta High were very careful to take great care and be fair to all students involved when making the leadership change for this student body position.
This student was relieved from his position because he failed to complete his responsibilities according to set bylaws, nothing more. We assure you that no one at Alpharetta High School has made any decision that would be considered biased or prejudiced. The superintendent expresses that he fully supports and defends Alpharetta High School’s leadership.
“We have a great principal and staff in place and I am confident in the way that they’ve handled this situation,” says school chief Robert Avossa. “It is unfortunate that this matter is being tried in the court of public perception. The facts about this allegation will be revealed completely through the legal process.”
SUMMARY FROM ATTORNEY: Reuben Lack was the student body president at Alpharetta High School. On February 8, after several attempts to redirect the student, he was removed as student body president by the two faculty advisers as permitted by the By Laws. The adult student and parent were extremely and vocally upset by this decision.
The student was essentially a poor leader. He behaved in manner not becoming of student body president including but not limited to rescheduling meetings with little notice, directly going against the instructions of the faculty advisers, calling out students on social media for not siding with him on votes/issues, not participating in school council functions, and misrepresenting the status of projects.
The student claims this was based on a proposal he made about changing prom king/queen procedures, despite the fact that this proposal was tabled by all of his peers on student council.
The student filed suit in federal court against the principal, the two faculty advisers, and the School District alleging violations of his First Amendment Rights. He requests that he be reinstated, attorneys fees and costs, and asks for actual and punitive damages.
This will be an interesting lawsuit to watch. I am a former student body president and was always at odds with the administration of my Catholic school. I was my freshman class president, but was not allowed to run for sophomore class president because the administration deemed me too outspoken and radical. (One of my “radical” campaigns was dress-down dances where girls could wear pants rather than the mandatory dresses.) I was allowed to run for office again as a junior, although I am certain many rosaries were offered by administrators hoping for my defeat.
As a reporter, I have covered a lot of ruckuses caused by school administrators overstepping and intervening in student government and, more typically, student newspaper matters that didn’t warrant their involvement. In almost all the cases, the actions of the administrators backfired and created even more of the controversy they were trying to prevent in the first place. I cannot tell from the facts at hand whether this is one of those cases. We will have to wait for the case to unfold.
Gay students and proms seems a particularly awkward issue for schools, which tend to make a muddle of what ought to be a simple issue of letting kids choose their own attire and their own dates. In 2010, a Mississippi school gained national attention when officials canceled the senior prom rather than allow a lesbian student to wear a tux and take a female date.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog