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California Supreme Court rules school can expel students for being gay

Henrietta Ronson April 30, 2009

A lower-court ruling that said a private religious high school could expel gay students was confirmed by the California’s Supreme Court yesterday.

Two girls were expelled from California Lutheran High School after the prinicpal questioned their sexual orientation.

The school is not covered by California civil rights law, the ruling said.

The parents of the two girls appealed their expulsion but the review was denied.

Their lawyer, Kirk Hanson, said that ruling would consequently allow private schools to indiscriminately expel students on any basis they choose, including sexual orientation and religion.

In September, 2005, after another student reported postings on the girls’ MySpace pages, the principal, Gregory Bork, called them into his office in and questioned them over their sexuality.

The girls were suspended based on the answers that they gave and a month later, were expelled. The two girls have since graduated from another high school

The parents sued under the 1959 Unruh Act, a civil rights act which forbids discrimination by businesses. Since 2005, the act has been amended to include bias based on sexual orientation and someone else’s perception of sexual orientation.

While state law prohibits anti-gay bias, it does not extend to private schools and is only relevant to the public sector.

In January, the Fourth District Court of Appeal in San Bernardino said the school was not a business but was a social organisation entitled to found and follow its own principles. This decision relies on the basis of a 1998 state Supreme Court ruling that allowed the Boy Scouts to exclude gays and atheists. Like the Boy Scouts, the board of appeals maintains that a private religious school exists mainly to instill its values in young people.

Mr Hanson strongly disagrees with this comparison and expounds that unlike the Boy Scouts, a private school provides education that is required by state law and has a business connection, because it “promotes the economic interests of the students.”

More: Americas

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