Alpharetta teen says he was ousted from student presidency for suggesting a gay-friendly prom

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.

According to 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

151 comments Add your comment

Ashley

March 23rd, 2012
10:31 am

I must say it refreshing to see a student who cares about inclusiveness for all student regardless of their sexual -orientation. Welcome to the 21st century.

liberalefty

March 23rd, 2012
10:39 am

when will conservatives realize that gays are people to?

Reuben Lack, I support you

March 23rd, 2012
10:44 am

Reuben Lack, I support you. If you are reading this blog, please tell us specifically how we can help you. Maureen, please oblige us. Let’s get organized. This kid, Reuben, and just as importantly, gay and lesbian students, need our unconditional love and support.
How can we help?
what can we do?
Where do I send money?
GM

Maureen and her Pants

March 23rd, 2012
10:45 am

Maureen, loved your pants story. Thanks for sharing.
GM

Chaos

March 23rd, 2012
10:46 am

Simply put, the student shouldn’t have been removed. The administration is lead by fools. Also simply put, who cares? I am so tired of discussions about sexual orientation. I don’t care if you are hetero, homo, or prefer to have sex only with yourself. It shouldn’t be a matter of public consumption.

Let me ask the obvious question: What would have happened if someone nominated a girl for king, or a boy for queen? The answer: Nothing. The student body, as a whole, wouldn’t have elected such…not because they are bigoted or are not “21st century” enough, but because the student body is ultimately going to elect someone that is representative of themselves…heterosexual.

God Bless the Teacher!

March 23rd, 2012
10:51 am

One of the funniest incidents I remember from about fifteen years ago was when a student of mine, I’ll call him Fred, brought his boyfriend to our prom. Fred asked what I thought prior to doing so, and I told him there shouldn’t be anything wrong with it. I was prom sponsor that year, so I got to make the calls on issues like that. Fred also frequently liked to dye his hair various colors (none too crazy, just nice shades of blue, green, and the like). At prom, my department chair came up to me and asked in that whisper tone of voice like she needed to talk to me about how she had just found out someone had cancer or something and asked, “Have you seen Fred?” I told her I had. She asked, “Well what do you think?” I told her I thought matching his hair color (blue this time) to his cumberbun was a neat idea. She looked at me in shock that I didn’t state the obvious, turned, and walked away. I still laugh when I think about that incident. The neat thing was that not a single student or administrator questioned the couple for attending prom, nor me for approving the pairing.

Happy Kine and The Mirth Makers

March 23rd, 2012
10:53 am

Sexual oriention has no place in high schools. I support the faculty on this issue.

This “Im gay” thing is more or less and for the most part no more than attention seeking gone awry. Much like the hippy movement of the 60s.

Taxi Smith

March 23rd, 2012
10:57 am

I presume there are two sides to this? Maybe not. By the way, “inclusiveness” is not a Left/Right issue “Leberallefty.” Its a Right/Wrong issue, and while I appreciate your sentiment I resent your trying to politicize every facet of human life (A Leftist weakness.)

Old timer

March 23rd, 2012
10:57 am

Oh for the days college curfews for girls only was the issue. Things were much simpler. If administrators would just let some things. E……

Maureen Downey

March 23rd, 2012
11:00 am

@Taxi, I have sent a note to Dr. Avossa suggesting that Fulton issue a statement as this will become a national story. If I get a response, I will post it here. However, schools tend to clamp down on issues in litigation.
Maureen

Ron F.

March 23rd, 2012
11:00 am

PANTS to a dance?? Now that would have brought God himself to the edge!! :-)

I wonder when school admins are going to realize their decisions can become public discussion/debate. This is clearly a divisive issue, but after the mess in Mississippi, you’d think they’d want to avoid taking such a controversial opinion. It’s a school prom- nothing earth-shattering about that. Geez, even the military got over it’s backwards attitudes.

Concerned Observer

March 23rd, 2012
11:02 am

As a person close to the situation, I need to implore everyone to step back and see all of the facts of this case before rushing to judgement and publicly convicting the school and its teachers. Reuben’s dismissal was not due to homophobic leanings of faculty, but instead failures on his part to be an adequate leader of the student council. The LGBT community should be outraged that the Lacks are trying to manipulate its community for their own agenda.

RamblinLonghorn

March 23rd, 2012
11:06 am

@Happy Kine and The Mirth Makers: Yeah, they just want attention. The “I am Gay” crowd is suffering discrimination and bigotry for a little attention.

Atlanta Mom

March 23rd, 2012
11:06 am

My child at UGA was talking to one of the suburban school kids, who explained to her that the suburban HS did not have a gay/straight alliance (school club), because they didn’t have any gays at her HS. Sure, two thousand students and nary a gay student. They are deep in the closet in our northern suburbs.

Maureen Downey

March 23rd, 2012
11:21 am

@Taxi, See extensive response from the school system, which I just added to blog.
Maureen

johnny too good

March 23rd, 2012
11:26 am

I agree with the concerned observer, I’m quite sure that there is more to this story than meets the eye, Headlines and topics of this nature are meant to inflame the public and rise against the authority/ruling party
the gay community cant always play the victim role

Pluto

March 23rd, 2012
11:30 am

I suspect that the public school systems have become a target rich environment for trial lawyers and teachers are being caught in the crossfire. Maybe it is time to cancel proms and other such activities because not everyone plays to the satisfaction of all. Cancel the homecoming dance as well.

Another Concerned Observer

March 23rd, 2012
11:36 am

As previously stated, I urge everyone reading this story to realize that the media twists and turns these stories into something they are not. I am close to this situation and personally know Reuben Lack. The reasons for his dismissal far exceed this one issue. The faculty and student body are fully supportive of the LGBT communtity. The title of prom king and queen are put in place to ensure that one girl is elected to represent the female student body, and same for the boys. More than often the guy and girl elected are not even a couple. This means that someone of a different sexual orientation could easily be elected prom king or queen (in fact, if I am not mistaken this was the case my freshman year).
So, step back and realize that there are TWO SIDES to this story. Alpharetta High School is not some hick school from the ‘deep south’ like I have been reading. And facts are being twisted and misrepresented…which is sad. There were other grounds for Reuben’s dismissal, but I do not want to be a hypocrite and twist facts I am not fully familiar with myself.

Maureen Downey

March 23rd, 2012
11:37 am

@johnny and @another concerned, Fulton has issued quite a detailed statement, which I added to the blog. But I still have questions about removing the student body president in February. Some of the allegations seem odd to me.
The complaints were listed as: 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.
First of all, I have dealt with student leaders and found them surprisingly unreliable, missing meetings, failing to bring what they promised or coming an hour late. And their reasons are all the same: I had a track meet. I had to study. I had my math tutor.
I think time management is an issue with high schoolers, period.
It may well be that this kid missed events, but he may have had legitimate reasons related to college visits, SAT prep etc.
It seems an extreme response to remove a kid with three months left of the school year.
If this student was duly elected, his peers made their choice. He’s been their classmate for years, so they had to know his strong and weak points. He could well be difficult to deal with or have his own interests at heart, but, if you come to the General Assembly, you will see that does not disqualify anyone from higher office. In fact, it seems to be a prerequisite.
When it comes to school administrators, I opt for the least involvement in student government and student newspapers after years of covering this stuff.
Maureen

Chaos

March 23rd, 2012
11:38 am

Maureen, Thanks for the update from the system. Sounds like Reuben Lack, and his enabling parents, are idiots searching for a bit of limelight while covering up the fact that their 18 year old is also incompetent…

johnny too good

March 23rd, 2012
11:45 am

ok i see the statement now

nice to hear the other side of the story……… now we have to figure out who has the most proof

Maureen Downey

March 23rd, 2012
11:45 am

@Another, There isn’t much media twisting to lawsuit stories. You report the claims made in the lawsuit and you report the counter claims. It will be up the judiciary to see which side is closest to the truth.
Maureen

Bill

March 23rd, 2012
11:57 am

Maureen,

I’m not trying to sound like a smart @ss or anything but I really don’t understand the point of this article. On the one hand, you have a student saying something and then someone else saying something else.

Public schools are a joke. Kids should be there to learn and yet here we have a “controversy” over someones sexuality which has NOTHING to do with education.

HS Public Teacher

March 23rd, 2012
12:00 pm

EVERYONE needs to realize that the public doesn’t know the whole story….. from either side. And, it is highly unlikely that we ever will. As with most things like this, it will be settled way before it has a chance to go to court.

Only in court would the public really know the details.

Atlanta Mom

March 23rd, 2012
12:02 pm

Here’s to hoping this young man has not been accepted into an elite university. They have been known to rescind offers to suit happy families.

j bullyq

March 23rd, 2012
12:08 pm

Oh, he’s going to be just fine, he just needs to get out of Alphie High and onto a good University Campus. I mean, there are some doophuses right here in Midtown River City who will probably try to mug or kill him just because they can and can get away with it. pls note, Ga Tech every weekend. btw Reuben, I wouldn’t consider Tech.

God Bless the Teacher!

March 23rd, 2012
12:10 pm

@Happy Kine…”Sexual oriention has no place in high schools.” So heterosexuals shouldn’t be allowed to hold hands in hallways, or kiss each other, or hug each other, or go to prom together? Say what you mean. Your fingers won’t fall off if you type the word “homosexuality.” Back in the day, I guess you also would have thought there was no place for blacks, Jews, or Catholics. I’m not homosexual, but I do believe that’s an area where the government shouldn’t dictate what is right and wrong.

Thanks!

March 23rd, 2012
12:25 pm

Good for Rubin! This is what America is all about… not exclusion, but inclusion. When will people like Principal Shannon Kersey learn that lesson?

Nope

March 23rd, 2012
12:27 pm

Yes Chaos… God forbid anyone like Rubin stand up for others. We should all just operate like you and ignore bigotry. I am sure this will be a much better country for it…

Devil's Advocate

March 23rd, 2012
12:28 pm

1) Gay couples should be allowed to attend prom.

2) Prom court should remain King/Queen because the idea is based on selecting one male and one female to represent the student body for that event. I know some schools vote on couples while others vote on individuals and they are paired based on results. I prefer the latter method because it’s not like the prom dates have been married for 25 years.

3) Others receiving votes tend to end up on the Prom Court.

4) Lack used poor planning and judgement in suggesting any alteration to *feature* gay couples. Gay students can end up on the Court if ballots are cast for individuals and that is okay.

5) The school used worse judgement by removing Lack as SBP. They should have sat down with him to discuss a plan that doesn’t greatly disrupt tradition while making sure all student have the opportunity to be included in the festivities.

Once again, a prom King/Queen should not feature couples but should feature the boy and girl the student body feels best represents their class for the prom. If they happen to be a couple then fine.

AHS Parent

March 23rd, 2012
12:32 pm

First of all, the prom king and prom queen at AHS have always been elected separately, not as a couple. As such, a gay (or transgender or bisexual) student has always been able to run for the position. This student’s first approach was to suggest couples run and then those couples be allowed to be gay. In fact, homosexual individuals have always been allowed to run as king or queen. I will note, AHS is a very diverse student body and due to the rapid expansion of our area is now filled with kids from radically different backgrounds (not to mention other parts of the country or even from other countries… AHS looks like a mini-UN), very accepting of different lifestyles, religions, races, etc….
There was no violation of this student’s right to free speech. This student tabled his own initiative.
Please remember FERPA laws, the federal statute that prevent school administrators from speaking out about individual students!!) the case will be found to be baseless. When that happens I hope the school system sues for recompense for legal fees and damages to the reputation of what is a wonderful, inclusive and high-performing school.

tony

March 23rd, 2012
12:35 pm

how about a gay prom. then have a black prom then have a prom for jocks then have a prom for the nerds then have a prom for jewish kids then have a prom for italian kids …. then everyone will be happy!! just make sure the school spends the same amount on each prom so everything is FAIR!!!

tony

March 23rd, 2012
12:39 pm

As long as no one gets offended or gets their feelings hurt!! i mean that is the responsibility of the school system and everyone these days .. make sure EVERYTHING IS FAIR AND MAKE SURE NO ONE EVER GETS OFFENDE OR THEIR FEELINGS HURT AND IF THEY DO THEY SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO SUE ANYONE AND EVERYONE WHO PUT THEM THROUGH THE AGONY OF FEELING AWKWARD OR UNCOMFORTABLE!!!

HS Public Teacher

March 23rd, 2012
12:42 pm

I have a sick feeling that Fulton County taxpayers will be paying out big bucks to make this ‘go away.’

To Concerned OBserver

March 23rd, 2012
12:53 pm

Since you are close to the story, please let us in on all the facts. Pleaes share them with us.
Also, how are the Lacks manipulate King the LBGT community?
Please be specific. If you don’t want us to rush to judgement, then give us all the facts, please.
GM

Jack

March 23rd, 2012
12:54 pm

Just get an education, Lack. Leave the provocations ’til a time when you might reach maturity.

SBinF

March 23rd, 2012
12:56 pm

“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.”

So, he was basically relieved of his position for behaving like an average teenager.

To paraphrase the great George Costanza, this story is like an onion, the more layers you peel away, the more it stinks.

Let me look into my crystal ball. The guy had some progressive ideas that run counter to the schools culture. He didn’t stand down, and the administration relieved him of his duty. Retroactively they went back and drummed up charges of actions that they would have otherwise overlooked. These are used as a pretext for firing him.

I bet the story goes something like that….

Joe Mama

March 23rd, 2012
12:57 pm

H. Kine — “Sexual oriention has no place in high schools.”

Yes! No American should be permitted to have any sort of sexual orientation until after they’re married! And maybe not even then! (laughing) :D

To Also Concerned

March 23rd, 2012
12:57 pm

YOu seem to be beating around the bush and tip toeing around something.? What is the Lacks hidden agenda?
If you abhor the attention the Lacks are getting, then stop trying to oust the boy as student body president. You see, that’s the part that’s making the news.
You better hurry, though, CNN is in Atlanta and yep, they’re national news.
GM

SBinF

March 23rd, 2012
12:58 pm

Gosh, the Lack haters sure do come out of the woodwork when they can post anonymously on the internet. At least he had the cajones to speak out publicly.

Anonymous heresay doesn’t really add much to either narrative.

SBinF

March 23rd, 2012
12:59 pm

oops, that should be ‘hearsay’

lest the grammar police eat me alive.

To Bill

March 23rd, 2012
1:04 pm

Au contraire. Sexuality has a lot to do with education. Every student studies American history. We learn about the rights we have as citizens. This is a life-lesson; this topic is real and spot on. With several states legalizing marriages and the timely debate about it in real life, this IS education. It is a worthwhile topic.
GM

Maureen Downey

March 23rd, 2012
1:11 pm

@To all, Address the issue but leave out the anonymous attacks on the student. I will take comments down that throw bricks from behind a screen. All comments to this blog are now being held into moderation before they post.
Maureen

Ann

March 23rd, 2012
1:18 pm

Maureen’s comments about Student Body President make a lot of sense. You don’t remove the leader from their duly elected position except for extreme circumstances. Since his proposal was raised in January and he was removed shortly after in February, it appears as if they may have “hunted” for other minor reasons to state regarding his dismissal. I would think that schools do not typically removed the Student Body leaders for these other types of infractions, such as missing a function, rescheduling meetings, etc. If he was not a competent leader, then let the Student Body Council deal with it at their level, and continue to provide faculty guidance and encouragement, as needed. And, if they wanted to remove him for these other infractions, why did they not do it before his latest proposal, then? As Maureen pointed out, there were only 3 months left to the school year. They should have just let it play out. Throughout history, many schools have had good leaders and poor leaders, but they are simply who their peers elected. And, if they don’t “pan out” as a good leader, you leave with it, just as we adults do with our elected leaders.

Ann

March 23rd, 2012
1:22 pm

Typo: Meant to say “live with it” not “leave with it”.

Negatory to the Lowest Common Denominator

March 23rd, 2012
1:24 pm

Another example of the decline and fall of America, favorable press for the homosexuals, as though their acts are normal. We cannot even call them what they are, the censors block all such communications!

UGA 11

March 23rd, 2012
1:32 pm

Maureen,

I had horrible experiences with school administrators as a student reporter at Roswell High. Teachers and faculty censored EVERYTHING — controversial or not — until the paper was no longer a student publication, but a PR rag for the administrators.

Since then I’ve graduated from UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and am currently working in journalism — I would say all this in spite of my experiences at RHS. Thanks for reporting this story, I’ll be interested to see how it turns out.

skipper

March 23rd, 2012
1:43 pm

Comparing homosexuality to being Black, Jewish, Italian or anything else is not the same! Although discrimination takes many forms, at some point enough becomes enough. Race and sexual orientation are no more alike than cars and trees. On up well into the twentieth century, many medical schools even defined homosexuality as an evil perversion. Before everyone goes off, check back in many of these medical manuels. Everyone was taught by family and yes schools, etc. about just how bad it was. Even though there were laws that wrongly excluded blacks in the South, it was not forcefully ingrained nationwide in the way “gayness” was viewed. Some folks feel high-schools just are not ready for these issues yet…..hard to go from illegal and imoral as was previously taught to wonderful! I know, I am not gay so I expect backlash. But as opposed to many things, the gay agenda is getting forced on folks. I do not hate them as this post will appear to say, its just that folks are having a time deciding where the line is drawn……………….

Rick

March 23rd, 2012
1:43 pm

Was there not a class vice-resident to stand in, when President Lack could not be present?

SBinF @ 12:56pm, has it right. It sure looks like the school administrators and Fulton County threw out every single possible excuse they could think of, no matter how petty, to rationalize their actions against this young man. With only 8 weeks of school left, it clearly was designed to be punishment for his most offending recent actions. One of these parties involved was teaching tolerance. Ask yourself which party is the most honorable on this lesson? Time will tell, but I am guessing Mr. Lack will one day to point to his brave and heroic stance on gay rights, and say to himself “One person can make a difference. I did.” You already have, Mr. Lack. Thank you.

Csoby

March 23rd, 2012
2:01 pm

you have to love it when one student sets up the administration and then wants a big compensation package…gee…tired of all these so called minority groups crying and suing as if they are the only ones who deserve anything….I think I will sue the government for failing to educate my kids or because I am a minority – one who works, does not impose my lifestyle on anyone nor demands that I receive special attention and pay more than my fair share of taxes.. Society has dipped to a new low. ’nuff said