Legal fight over student group costs Osseo $460,000

  • Article by: NORMAN DRAPER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 27, 2009 - 12:17 AM

Osseo schools spent more than $460,000 to battle a suit brought by a gay-rights group at Maple Grove High School.

Osseo schools got hit with a king-size legal bill -- $460,143 -- in its fight to keep a Maple Grove High School student-run gay-rights group from having the same privileges as other, officially approved, school clubs.

Luckily for the district, its insurance company will pay the full amount.

The tab was released in a U.S. District Court document filed recently, and is the result of a three-year legal battle the district waged with Straights and Gays for Equity (SAGE). The U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled twice against the district, which has abandoned its legal fight.

"We're very, very happy to put this behind us," said Osseo Assistant Superintendent Kate Maguire. "Our goal is a safe, healthy learning environment for all students."

SAGE sued the district in 2005 after officials at Maple Grove High denied the group status as a "curricular" student organization. Though the group could meet, having curricular status allows a school organization to make announcements over the school PA system, put up signs in the school, and meet during school hours.

The district argued that SAGE wasn't a curricular organization because its activities weren't connected to the school's curriculum. But the courts decided that other student groups accorded curricular privileges weren't connected to the school curriculum either. U.S. District and Court of Appeals judges decided in favor of the students, most recently last summer.

Currently, said Osseo schools spokeswoman Barbara Olson, SAGE is still not considered to be a "curriculum-related" student group, but is accorded the same privileges as those groups that are.

Asked about the legal fees, Olson replied:

"The district must pay those costs. It just so happens that all the costs are being reimbursed by our insurance."

Maguire said SAGE students meet with the high school's leadership team "to ensure that any problems that occur are talked about and resolved right away."

Norman Draper • 612-673-4547

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