In 1984, President Ronald Reagan signed into law the federal Equal Access Act (EAA). This law permits student-initiated noncurricular clubs to meeting during noninstructional time, if a given public secondary school maintains a “limited public forum.” In addition, if a public school permits other noncurricular organizations to meet on school grounds outside of instructional time, it cannot bar religiously oriented student groups.

EAA was passed on the heels of a thrice-defeated proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would have permitted state-sanctioned prayers in public schools, and the original legislative intent behind EAA was specifically religious. However, in the midst of the legislative process, the original wording was modified to include secular, noncurricular groups.

EAAs constitutionality was later upheld in Board of Education v. Mergens (1990). At ...

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