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Student Barred From All-Male Club Files Sex Discrimination Complaint

January 19, 1985

LONGMEADOW, Mass. (AP) _ A 14-year-old girl has filed a federal sex discrimination complaint to force an all-male high school service club to admit her because she says the female counterpart is inferior and ″demeaning.″

Neela Thakur said she initially thought she could join her school’s chapter of the Key Club because Key Club International is coeducational.

Longmeadow High School officials say she should join the Keyette Club.

″I don’t believe the clubs are equal in opportunity, and I feel the Key Club is much stronger,″ Ms. Thakur, freshman class president and honor roll student, said Friday. ″I’m just being discriminated against because I am a girl.″

Ms. Thakur filed sex discrimination complaints with the state Department of Education and the Boston office of the U.S. Office of Civil Rights.

″I didn’t expect to have to put up any kind of fight,″ she said. ″I don’t see why we can’t work together. Plus I don’t like the name Keyette. It’s very demeaning. It reminds me of Smurfette.″

Principal Angelo S. Teixeira said Ms. Thakur told him the only reason she didn’t want to join the Keyette Club was because she felt it was inferior to the Key Club.

″She’s a nice young lady by the way,″ Teixeira said. ″But I don’t for one second accept the contention that one club is better than the other.″

Ms. Thakur said she had collected nearly 100 signatures on a petition calling for integration of the Key Club and planned to present it to the school committee after she collects 100 more signatures. But leaders of the clubs said she has little support from the 1,110 students at the high school.

Key Club President Bradley T. Spink, a senior, said he was opposed to admitting Ms. Thakur into the 110-member club.

″I’m basically staying by our bylaws, and that’s pretty much how the club feels, that the bylaws are sufficient. We welcome her as a guest, but as the bylaws state, it’s for males only,″ Spink said.

″From what I’ve heard from all of the boys, they don’t want her in the club,″ said Kris Bibeau, a senior and vice president of the 180-member Keyetts. ″She has not proposed any ideas to help them out. They think she wants to do it just to be contrary.″

The state Department of Education has informed the school that to deny a student admission to the Key Club because she is female ″is a violation of state discrimination laws,″ saidDeLois F. Swan, the department’s assistant regional director.

Ms. Thakur’s federal complaint claims the club’s refusal to accept her violates federal law. The law provides some exceptions, ″but we don’t know whether they apply to this case,″ Frank P. Bucci, the office’s deputy regional director, said Friday.

Longmeadow’s legal counsel, David J. Martel, said the school was waiting to receive the state’s opinion in writing.

″I feel there is a rational basis for the position being taken by the school officials, which should protect them against any claims of sex discrimination,″ Martel said.

James P. Tinsley, administrator of Key Club International, said from the organization’s Indianapolis headquarters that Ms. Thakur’s discrimination complaint was the first he had heard of involving the organization.

Key Club International, sponsored by the males-only Kiwanis International, has been coed since February 1977, but allows local chapters to decide whether they want to admit both sexes, he said.

Keyette Clubs are locally sponsored by some Kiwanis Clubs, but aren’t recognized or sponsored by Kiwanis International, Tinsley said.

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