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Board Bars Gay Tolerance Club

In front of an emotional crowd of 300, the Orange County Unified School Board voted unanimously Tuesday to prohibit a gay tolerance club at El Modena High School, reports Sandra Mitchell of KCBS-TV in Los Angeles.

Protestors, some carrying signs saying "Grades Not Aids," argued it is not the school's job to educate students about homosexuality, which they called a high-risk lifestyle.

"This club has a name and a purpose that is unacceptable," said board member Kathy Ward, reading from a resolution turning down the proposed club.

The club had been forbidden to meet on campus pending the school board's decision. Fifteen-year-old student, Anthony Colin, proposed the club in September as a place for all students to discuss sexual orientation issues.

Even after the defeat, Colin remained defiant. "If they think they can just tear down my rights because I'm a minor and I'm going to shut up, they've got another thing coming," he said.

A small scuffle occurred shortly before the meeting began when an unidentified man pushed Colin. Police made no arrest.

"That happens at a board meeting and they don't think we need a club about tolerance? Get real," Colin said after the vote. "We expected the worst and that's what we got."

Club supporter Jeff LaTorneau called it "an absolute shameful disgrace that 10 percent of the students in this school district have been their constitutionally protected rights."

Colin and student Heather Zetin filed a lawsuit last month after the board put off making a decision for a second time. Although reviewing proposed campus clubs is generally a routine process, board members decided to have a public vote after holding a community forum.

The lawsuit claims the district violated the federal Equal Access Act, which requires schools to treat non-curricular student groups the same regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation.

"They have the law on their side. In the end, the right result will be achieved," said the teens' attorney, David Codell.

A similar situation in 1996 in Salt Lake City ended with a school board banning all student clubs rather than allow a sexual orientation club. The decision is being appealed in federal court.

But the Orange County board, in its decision, cited state law that says sexual education is a curriculum issue, therefore making such a club illegal.

The board left students the option of replacing the proposed club with a tolerance club as long as all references to sexual orientation were removed.

"That's not going to happen," Colin said.

In recent weeks, the proposed club has gained national attention, pitting those who say discussions of sexual orientation have no place in schools against those who say it's the perfect place to teach tolerance.