McKeesport students can form Black Student Union under settlement
McKeesport Area High School students can form a Black Student Union club under terms of a lawsuit settlement between the school district and the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania.
The students will be allowed to move forward with forming the club within 10 days of submitting an application, according to a copy of the settlement agreement provided by the ACLU.
“We appreciate that the district recognized that the students have a right to form the McKeesport Black Student Union and moved to finalize a solution,” Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said in a statement. “School administrators may not stand in the way of proposed clubs simply because they may disagree with the club’s message.”
The district will work with students to identify a staff member to serve as an adviser, according to the settlement agreement.
“We’re quite excited about the outcome of the entire situation,” McKeesport Area School District Superintendent Mark Holtzman, who was named as a defendant in a civil rights lawsuit, said Monday.
Holtzman said he and other administrators will be working with students to get the group off the ground as long as they submit a written request.
“We’ll have an opportunity as a school district to provide the support necessary to give them what they need,” Holtzman said.
The 11 students filed the federal lawsuit with the help of the ACLU on April 10 alleging that the district violated students’ First Amendment rights by repeatedly denying their efforts to form a Black Student Union club.
Speaking with reporters last week, Holtzman denied that claim, saying that the district supports the students’ interest in forming the club. But, Holtzman said, district officials were opposed to outside groups or individuals pushing the group for personal political gain.
According to the settlement, non-school individuals or groups include but are not limited to Take Action Mon Valley and Penn State Greater Allegheny.
Jamie Martines is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jamie at 724-850-2867, [email protected] or via Twitter .