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MCKEESPORT (KDKA) — The McKeesport School District missed a deadline imposed by the American Civil Liberties Union to allow the formation of a black student union at the high school.
The ACLU gave the district until Friday to allow African-American students to establish the student club or head to federal court.
About 45 percent of McKeesport High School’s 1,100 students are black. Another 10 percent are mixed race. The ACLU contends black students want to form a black student union to discuss their concerns, but Dr. Mark Holtzman, the school’s superintendent, disagrees.
“We’re looking for what’s in the best interest of kids, and at this particular point, our students haven’t voiced the interest in the black student union,” Holtzman said.
The superintendent claims outside political forces are pushing the black student union, not students. He favors a more inclusive organization.
“Our students are very vocal in stating that they would like to have just a student union and didn’t want it to necessarily be named a black student union,” Holtzman said.
But the ACLU claims at least nine students want the black student union.
In a letter, the ACLU says, “The district must treat the prospective BSU club the same way it has treated other non-curricular student clubs.”
They go on to say, “The Federal Equal Access Act requires federally funded secondary schools that permit meeting of any non-curriculum-related student groups to provide equal access to all student wishing to form such groups.”
The ACLU issued a threat, saying, “If MASD fails to approve the club by the deadline (which is April 5), we will seek a federal court injunction ordering the District to comply with our request.”
The superintendent remains defiant.
The April 5 deadline appears to have come and gone. The ACLU says the next stop is federal court, a place where the ACLU, more often than not, wins cases like this.
The outcome of this battle, however, remains to be seen.