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Club Rush: Changes in Club Constitution

Updated: Aug 15, 2023

By Lia Yereslove Feb. 15, 2023


Kenneth Yang Art

A court case ensued between the San Jose Unified School District (SJUSD) and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) club at Pioneer High School on Apr 22, 2020, regarding student rights and free speech principles. The district believed that the FCA was acting discriminatorily towards the LGBTQ+ community and refused to officially recognize their club. This then resulted in the FCA club suing the district. A high school disagreement turned into a long discrimination suit, a ruling of religious discrimination on the part of the district and eventually a semester-long postponement of clubs at SJUSD high schools.


Pioneer High School’s FCA branch was denied official recognition by SJUSD in 2019. In April 2020, the FCA filed a lawsuit against the school district. Elizabeth Sinclair and Charlotte Klarke, the plaintiffs and student leaders of the club, claimed the district’s refusal to recognize the club was an act of discrimination and “violated their constitutional rights based on their religious beliefs,” according to the Mercury News.


The issue originally arose when Peter Glasser, a Pioneer High School teacher, posted a copy of the FCA’s Statement of Faith and Statement of Sexual Purity which stated that marriage is a sacred act occurring only between a man and a woman. The club also had rules dictating that LGBTQ+ students could not hold leadership positions, causing the district to revoke its recognition of the club, claiming the FCA broke its non-discriminatory policy—the rule that discrimination based on sex, race and religion will not be permitted.


Kenneth Yang Art

A verdict in August 2022 by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that SJUSD’s decision to refuse to certify the FCA club was an act of religious discrimination. Per U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam of Oakland, the school district pushed a reasonable policy that fostered equal participation without limiting freedom of expression or religion, therefore he declined to sanction the group's reinstatement. However, Judge Kenneth Lee said in the 2-1 ruling that the discriminatory policies set by the district were selective, noting that “the district has not withdrawn recognition of Leland High’s Senior Women’s Club, whose members are all female 12th-graders.” He also claimed that the district's decision to revoke recognition for the FCA club was targeted due to its religious-based views.


As a result, the school was also affected by the court’s ruling. Club Rush—a week-long event in which students can learn about and join various clubs at the school—never had a set date, but was postponed from its original date in early September. Instead, it was moved to the week of Jan. 17 due to SJUSD’s reevaluation of its clubs and its non-discriminatory policies. Club rush was delayed as SJUSD lawyers established a new constitution and application process for club recognition, in order to ensure that all clubs abided by its non-discrimination policies. The district has justified its decision by citing the need to ensure a safe and inclusive environment for all students, while the club and its supporters argue that their constitutional rights to freedom of speech and religion are being violated.


“The process was long, and it was hard to have clubs delayed, but it was an important process to ensure clubs are available for everyone,” Activities Director Meg Walsh said.

The new policies for clubs set by the district are consistent between both middle and high schools in the district, according to Walsh. A constitution overview was created for all the clubs by Walsh, based on SJUSD’s rules enacted to ensure inclusivity within clubs. Article 3.2 states, “Membership in this club and participation in any and all activities and programs of this club shall be open to all students and not restricted in any way other than what is specifically stated herein.”


While the policies were set in place for the school’s clubs, the initial situation created much controversy throughout the student body.


“My club was not affected directly, but we altered our policies so that we will stay away from any limitations of learning about a culture so we can fully understand the heritage and not exclude anyone’s identity and where they are from,” Junior Marcus Firoozye, Vice President of the Cultural Awareness Club, said.

Other student club leaders also kept up with the lawsuit. “Our club wasn’t affected by the rules, but the district handled the new policies well. I hope no lawsuit of any discrimination happens in the future,” Junior Jessica Burriesci, secretary of the Humane Society, said. This decision has caused a significant amount of controversy and backlash from the club's representatives.


William Huang Photos

The controversial FCA club lawsuit sparked conversations throughout SJUSD regarding non-discrimination policies as well as students’ rights. Additionally, despite the semester-long delay, clubs have officially resumed with many new ones being introduced such as the martial arts club.

 

About the Contributors

Lia Yereslove

staff writer



Lia Yereslove is a junior at Leland High school and proud to be one. She is a new staff writer on the Leland Charger Account and cannot wait for readers to see what this incredible newspaper has in store. Outside of Journalism, she enjoys hanging with her friends, her dog, listening and playing music, as well as traveling the world. And, of course, writing about it.


Kenneth Yang

artist



Kenneth Yang is a senior at Leland Highschool and an artist for The Charger Account. During his free time, he enjoys sleeping, eating and exercising.











William Huang

photographer



William Huang is a junior at Leland High School and is a photographer for The Charger Account. He enjoys watching shows, playing video games, listening to music and playing with his dog.

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Inseo Kim
Inseo Kim
Apr 17, 2023

dad club is the best club 🤩🤩

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