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US student loses court bid over prom policy

Edmund Broch March 31, 2012
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A high school student from Atlanta, who had filed a federal lawsuit against his school, alleging that the administrators removed him as student body president after he proposed to make the prom more inclusive to LGBT students, has lost his case on the first day of hearing.

The twelve-page ruling, as reported a few hours ago in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, denied Reuben Lack’s request to be reinstated as student body president. Mr Lack had alleged that his removal violated his right to free speech and expression, motivated as he saw it, directly consequent to his gay-friendly policy.

U.S. District Judge Richard Story did commend the youth for his “zeal to change policy,” and also expressed concern over the timing of Lack’s removal, coming as it did just a month after his prom idea was announced.

In the end, the judge said, he had found evidence that Mr Lack had been removed for other reasons, including his failure to keep his superiors informed of the outcome of class president’s meeting.

“Essentially, the court finds that [Mr Lack] is a bright student who ‘aggressively’ engaged in his causes … but he did not show respect or civility to his faculty advisers or complete traditional student council ‘spirit’ tasks, which, under the bylaws, he had an obligation to help carry out, regardless of his interest level,” Judge Story wrote in his ruling.

The student at Alpharetta High School in Atlanta had originally e-mailed the students in December of last year, informing of his intentions to make the prom gender neutral. However, a faculty advisor had asked that the meeting, during which it was discussed, move to a different agenda. He attempted to reintroduce the resolution later, but within a fortnight, he was told by the school that he was no longer the student president.

The lawyer for Mr Lack, James Radford, has released a statement to the effect that they have another suit pending, seeking emotional damages from the school, and that their seeking of immediate reinstatement was to make sure that all those involved in the dispute could testify. The removal from his position threatened his college choice, and denied him the right to address the school at graduation, Mr Radford added.

The lawyer for the school, Todd Hatcher, was not available for comment. However, the school had released a statement last week that Mr Lack was removed because he was a poor leader and had behaved in a manner not becoming of a student body president.

More: Atlanta, prom, US

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