The lawsuit is off and the kids are alright.
Openly lesbian Champlin Park High School students Sarah Lindstrom and Desiree Shelton have won the right to walk together in the processional for the school's annual Snow Days Pep Fest.[jump]
That's what the school's students voted for in the first place when they elected both women to the Royalty Court for the event, which functions as a basketball team homecoming celebration. But the high school tried to rig the event to stop the girls from being in the processional together.
That drew a lawsuit on Friday from the Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, with assistance from Faegre & Benson's lawyers. The Minnesota Human Rights Act explicitly prohibits schools from discriminating against students based on their sex or sexual orientation, and the lawsuit also said the high school's move violated the girls' rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
A day later, the Anoka-Hennepin School District, the school, the girls and their advocates found some common ground.
SPLC issued a joint statement on everyone's behalf, after reaching agreement in federal court:
Each member of Royalty Court will select a meaningful person in their life to escort him or her in the coronation procession following introductions at this year's Pep Fest. This will enable Sarah Lindstrom and Desiree Shelton to walk together in the processional.
"After today, I think that working with the school and creating these changes is really positive and really good for everyone," Shelton told WCCO. "This is what we both have been hoping for. We both are looking forward to it."
The uproar may also have turned into a positive learning experience for the school district, which can't seem to get its head around the challenge of making its schools safe for GLBT students.
The joint statement said the district promised to work harder to "realize the district-wide objective of honoring all students."
Here's the full statement:
This is a joint press statement from Sarah Lindstrom, Desiree Shelton, their counsel, and the Anoka-Hennepin School District, Champlin Park High School, Principal Michael George, Superintendent Dennis Carlson, and their counsel.
All parties are pleased to announce that we have worked together, collaboratively, to arrive at an arrangement for introductions of elected royalty that is respectful and inclusive of all students. Each member of Royalty Court will select a meaningful person in their life to escort him or her in the coronation procession following introductions at this year's Pep Fest. This will enable Sarah Lindstrom and Desiree Shelton to walk together in the processional.
The school district and its administrators and staff view this arrangement as an opportunity for ongoing conversation about school events and activities and for consideration of other ideas that will make our school communities inclusive and will enable us to realize the district-wide objective of honoring all students. District administrators and staff will include all students, including LGBT students, in that conversation. Sarah and Des are pleased with this positive outcome and gratified by the school district's commitment to honoring all students.
The lawsuit will be dismissed amicably without admissions of fault or wrongdoing and without further proceedings or expense to either side. The parties wish to acknowledge and appreciate the role played by Minnesota Federal District Court Judge Susan R. Nelson in facilitating the conversation leading to this resolution.