School districts working with anti-LGBTQ groups can cost your kids’ schools millions

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STATE COLLEGE, PENNSYLVANIA, UNITED STATES - 2023/04/23: A protester speaks during a rally for safe Centre County public schools. The rally was held in response to an event called "School Board Boot Camp" hosted by Chuck Mason. The boot camp to help school board members and candidates "to create informed policies that oppose CRT, LGBTQ, and DEI to protect kids" was canceled after the protest was announced. (Photo by Paul Weaver/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

By Sean Kitchen

May 9, 2024

Parents across South Central Pennsylvania are worried about the potential financial impacts working with anti-LGBTQ groups may have on their school districts.

Twenty years ago, families in the Dover School District, located in York County, filed a lawsuit and defeated an effort to teach creationism in their children’s schools.

Now, in 2024, families in this same community are bracing for a similar fight after the school district approved a contract with the Independence Law Center, the legal arm of an extremist anti-LGBTQ organization.

“It was still a very costly lawsuit to the district, and not just money,” Kara Hetrick, a parent living in the Dover School District, recalled during an interview.

“I lived here then. It was a very divisive time, not something that you want your district to be famous for, and for this to be coming back again 20 years later, it’s very crazy.”

Parents sued the school district to keep creationism out of the classrooms and eventually won.

However, that victory came with a price tag of just over $1 million in legal fees for the school district. Now, the cost of potential legal fees in school districts seeking free advice from the Independence Law Center has parents in South Central Pennsylvania concerned.

The Independence Law Center has been at the center of a number of anti-LGBTQ controversies across Pennsylvania over the past year, and school boards choosing to discriminate against LGBTQ students and teachers have been left with large legal bills.

“I think they’re counting on the fact that many parents won’t sue because many parents do like the district that they’re in, and that they know that a lawsuit could ultimately hurt the district, which would hurt the children,” Hetrick explained.

Parents in the West Shore School District, which is also located in York County, are concerned about the potential legal ramifications that may stem from the district working with the Independence Law Center.

Kristina Moon, a senior attorney with the Education Law Center, highlighted the potential impacts during a presentation at a recent West Shore School District meeting.

The Central Bucks School District shelled out over $2 million in legal expenses stemming from their decisions to discriminate against LGBTQ students and teachers. The district paid $1.75 million to defend themselves against anti-LGBTQ allegations, and then spent an additional $400,000 to settle a lawsuit against a teacher for retaliation.

“I think sometimes people just might not be aware of how much cost can come from litigation following civil rights violations,” Moon said in an interview at the time.

“We find that it’s useful information for school board members that are considering … and if they undertake to restrict students’ rights, then that is going to likely cost them at litigation stage or down the road in some way in addition to costing students their right to access in schools.”

Author

  • Sean Kitchen

    Sean Kitchen is the Keystone’s political correspondent, based in Harrisburg. Sean is originally from Philadelphia and spent five years working as a writer and researcher for Pennsylvania Spotlight.

CATEGORIES: POLITICS | EDUCATION

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