PITTSBURGH – A group of high school students and their parents are suing a school district over allegations the students' constitutional rights have been violated because they have not been permitted to operate a noncurricular student club for black students.
McKeesport Black Student Union filed a complaint on April 10 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania against McKeesport Area School District and Superintendent Mark P. Holtzman Jr. citing the Equal Access Act and of the First Amendment.
According to the complaint, the plaintiff group is an unincorporated group of McKeesport Area High School students and is seeking the defendant district's approval to operate the club.
The plaintiff group and students allege their efforts to form the group have been "stymied at every turn" because of "school district superintendent’s objection to the name of the group, the McKeesport Black Student Union (MBSU), and its focus — the cultural, social, and academic needs of black and brown students attending McKeesport Area High School. He would prefer that the group be called the McKeesport Student Union and work on creating fun activities for the student body," the suit states.
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The plaintiffs allege the defendants' refusal to allow the group the same access to school facilities as other groups violates their First Amendment rights.
The plaintiffs are seeking all reasonable sums due, attorney fees and court costs. They are represented by Witold J. Walczak and Sara J. Rose of the American Civil Liberties Foundation of Pennsylvania in Pittsburgh.
U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania case number 2:19-CV-00405