Meet Wren Prahl, a sixth-grader at iForward, a virtual-only public charter school based in northwest Wisconsin.
When Prahl, who uses they/them pronouns, tried to start a gay-straight alliance at their school, administrators first skirted the issue before suspending them. So Prahl called the ACLU.
Various students and faculty at iForward had begun request a GSA as early as 2019. When Prahl started at the school in Fall 2020, they began the push to make the club a reality.
“The school didn’t already have one and I wanted to meet more people,” Prahl told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Prahl approached the school principal, Constance Quade, in December in hopes of starting the club. Quade initially told Prahl that the request would have to wait until a new semester, as the school did not approve student-initiated clubs mid-term.
In January, Prahl tried again, enlisting a teacher to email students about joining the school’s “Rainbow Club.” Principal Quade responded by suspending Prahl for one day in February for trying to advertise non-school-sponsored activities.
For Prahl, the suspension came as a shock. iForward offers a number of non-academic activities, including a chess club and a Dungeons & Dragons club.
Undeterred, Prahl partnered with their mother and a teacher to contact the American Civil Liberties Union. The group filed a complaint with the school district in March 2021. Elisabeth Lambert, a lawyer for the ACLU repping Prahl, argued that Quade’s actions violated the Equal Access Act.
The federal law declares that if a school allows any non-academic group, it must offer equal access to all students, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. As iForward offered the aforementioned chess club, Dungeons & Dragons club as well as several sports teams, the school would need to allow for the formation of the GSA.
The Grantsburg School District, home of iForward, investigated Prahl’s case in the context of Lambert’s complaint, eventually ruling in their favor. Prahl had their suspension expunged, and the district vowed to “help promote a safe, nondiscriminatory environment for LGBTQ students at the school.”
As for Prahl, they say they look forward to returning to school this fall… and starting the iForward GSA with the start of the new year.
Well done, Wren.