The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee is asking the Rutherford County school board to reconsider a decision to take down posters identifying classrooms as safe spaces for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.
According to the ACLU, the posters were hung at Central Magnet School at the request of the school's Gay Straight Alliance. They hung alongside posters from other student groups for the majority of the last school year.
ACLU-TN Legal Director Thomas Castelli said that removing the poster violates the free speech rights of students and teachers.
"If you're going to allow any other club to post their flyers and messages in the hallways or classrooms, then you have to let every club," said ACLU attorney Tom Castelli.
In a Thursday letter, the ACLU asked the board to immediately reauthorize the display of the posters.
School officials wouldn't go on camera to comment on this story, saying they've been threatened with a lawsuit. They did, however, issue a statement, saying, "We have policies that prohibit bullying of all kinds and see no reason to single out a specific kind of bullying. The message in this poster is far broader than 'anti-bullying.' It's perceived by some parents as the endorsement of a particular lifestyle, something the schools must remain neutral on."
But the battle isn't over, and it could wind up in court.
"We're not asking the school board to endorse anything. We're not asking the school board to speak. We're saying the students have the right to post this, because it's their speech. The government violates the Constitution when they try to censor that speech," Castelli said.
School officials say they're not aware of a student group called the Gay Straight Alliance on this particular campus, at least not this year.
They say the only requests they've had to put the poster back up have come from the ACLU, not students.
Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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