LGBT and Atheist High School Groups Are Here to Stay June 16, 2011

LGBT and Atheist High School Groups Are Here to Stay

The U.S. Department of Education has just released legal guidelines regarding the Equal Access Act.

Nothing really changes now, as far as I can tell. But the document and group guide (DOC) reaffirm the right for LGBT and atheist students to start their own clubs in public high schools.

The Act applies to: (1) any public secondary school (2) that receives federal funds (3) and creates a limited open forum by allowing one or more noncurricular student groups to meet on its premises (4) during noninstructional time. Schools meeting these criteria are forbidden to prevent access or deny fair opportunity to students who wish to hold meetings on school grounds.

It doesn’t matter if the group holds an unpopular viewpoint; they still have a right to meet.

Not only that, high school students should be aware they don’t have to call their atheist group a “Philosophy” group because it sounds “nicer”:

The Act requires the school to treat each group like other, similarly situated groups, and prohibits imposing additional requirements on some student-run groups that are not imposed on all others. A school would violate the Act by, for example, requiring a gay-straight alliance to change its name, requiring it to have a faculty adviser when faculty advisers are not generally required for all other groups, or imposing different requirements for the group’s posters, leaflets, and announcements than the school places on other groups’ promotional materials.

Michael De Dora, the Executive Director of Center for Inquiry – New York City, explained the importance of this reaffirmation via email:

As evidenced on your blog and elsewhere, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) and nonreligious students have faced many unlawful challenges from conservative and religious secondary school officials in trying to form extracurricular groups.

The new guidelines released by the U.S. Department of Education are important because they clarify and confirm the federal government’s dedication to ensuring that public schools provide equal access for extracurricular clubs regardless of the students’ religious, political or philosophical views, sexual orientation, or gender identity (note that this also protects students of minority faiths). The guidelines send a strong message to public schools that rejecting or excluding student groups based on any of the aforementioned criteria will put them in violation of the Equal Access Act, and even the First Amendment.

These protections are important not just because they align with equality and free expression, but also because these student groups are essential in the fight against ignorance, bigotry, and discrimination. They provide students a safe place to meet and talk about their beliefs and experiences, and foster public dialogue that serves to break down stereotypes.

It sounds like something so logical that no one could oppose it.

Which is why I’m sure some conservative Christian group will denounce it in 5… 4… 3… 2…

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • CanadianNihilist

    Good on them, It’s nice to see news about this kind of thing without it being about lawsuits.

  • Adam

    It’s always nice to see a reaffirmation of a lawful law when so many politicians see fit to violate the law in view of their own personal religion.

  • Bones

    The schools will just get rid of all groups.

  • If schools get rid of all groups it will help turn the greater society against them. We’re boxing the crazy theists into a corner.

  • Synapse

    The schools will just get rid of all groups.

    Ahhh yes, the scorched earth policy.

    Nah, I see them taking this and just moving to a blanket “you all have to have faculty advisors”, since they clearly said that was an acceptable restriction if it applied to all groups. Then you just make sure “people know that sponsoring certain types of groups is a highly career-limiting decision”

  • In Virginia, denounce would be a polite way of saying it. But it’s on the agenda after making birth control illegal because we all know that life is valued whether it is 1 cell or 1 million so sayeth the Bible and god forbid we don’t make our laws in accordance with some god they’ve invented to make them feel better about themselves.

  • It sounds like something so logical that no one could oppose it.

    Which is why I’m sure some conservative Christian group will denounce it in 5… 4… 3… 2…

    1… 0!

    http://angrywhitedude.com/2011/06/obama-dedicated-to-gay-clubs-in-schools-education-not-so-much/

  • Michael De Dora

    @Synapse:

    I see them taking this and just moving to a blanket “you all have to have faculty advisors”, since they clearly said that was an acceptable restriction if it applied to all groups. Then you just make sure “people know that sponsoring certain types of groups is a highly career-limiting decision”

    This is a very good point, but this seems to be a social, not legal, issue. All the more reason why we need blogs like Friendly Atheist!

  • It sounds like something so logical that no one could oppose it.

    No there are plenty of logical people that would oppose that namely libertarians or varieties of anti-statist groups.

    See this is why you liberals don’t get it, I’ll quote Ron Paul again:

    1) Rights belong to individuals, not groups; they derive from our nature and can neither be granted nor taken away by government.

    * LGBT are group special interests. This is what feeds the bread and circuses of politics today. Pandering to special interest groups instead of defending individual liberties. If that was done than all these charades wouldn’t be up for special interest groups to fight over.

    2) All peaceful, voluntary economic and social associations are permitted; consent is the basis of the social and economic order.

    The Department of Education does not allow peaceful voluntary social and economic associations. If you want to teach stuff that’s not in the curriculum, you’re fucked as a teacher. You should know that Hemant working for a public school.

    3) Justly acquired property is privately owned by individuals and voluntary groups, and this ownership cannot be arbitrarily voided by governments.

    4) Government may not redistribute private wealth or grant special privileges to any individual or group.

    * That’s what the Department of Education exactly does. It redistributes wealth in form of taxation – you live in a certain geographical area, you are FORCED to pay for public schools via property taxes. This leads to teacher unions who leech of taxpayers in the form of high salaries, plush benefits – an entire summer off is a great benefit most in the private sector do not enjoy. PTAs and School Boards are just a bunch of busibodies of beauracracy.

    Taxation is theft. It’s a simple concept to understand once you unwash your liberal brain.

    5) Individuals are responsible for their own actions; government cannot and should not protect us from ourselves.

    * Pretty much self-explanatory

    Ten Principles of a Free Society by Ron Paul
    http://www.lewrockwell.com/paul/paul732.html

    So abolishing the Dept. of Education would be a very good thing for the free market.

    Education quality would go up, taxpayers would keep the money in their pockets to educate their kids where they see fit.

    These days you get a better education on the cloud services anyways. Wikipedia anyone? It’s a free market encyclopedia that beats any other one.

    I know some schools in Florida that censor Wikipedia which is a shame – so much good info there.

    In this depression economy, public school is a waste of taxpayer resources.

    Most states are beyond broke anyways, so how are they gonna pay for all the public services? Millions of americans are broke, jobless, and many homeless.

    It’s Great Depression 2.0 folks.

    You all didn’t listen to Ron Paul presumably because he was christian and had views on abortion/creationism that you didn’t agree.

    I’m an atheist that respects Ron Paul and he’s doing more for liberty that the lot of you that diss him.

    ~WR

  • cat

    @Wally, no education quality does not go up when you elimate public schools. What it leaves you with is a massive portion of the population illiterate, and the small literate minority either educated at rich private schools or highly relgious schools.

    You think the broke, jobless, and homeless will be better of without food, shelter, medical care, and literacy?

    The rich and the oppressors are never “special interest groups” only the poor and the oppressed. And the government cannot take away the rights of queer people, but it can take away the rights over private property? What a bizarre and contradictory pile of bullshit.

    Anywho, back to the original post, as a person with a bachelor’s in philosophy, and someone who was a member of my undergrad’s philosophy club, I am not fond of relabling atheist groups with the term philosophy. Some of us atheist nerds really want to debate the metaphysics of space-time in our philosophy groups.

  • Heidi

    It’s Great Republican-made Depression 2.0 folks.

    Fixed that for you.

    I wonder where the funds come from that pay Mr. Paul’s salary. Oh, yeah. Taxes. Theft. Right.

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Department_of_Education

    Came into our law in 1980. Look at all the beauracracy it has bred. All those useless laws and legislation:

    No Child Left Behind Act?

    Did you know that actually dumbed down students for degrading educational standards?

    And how do you think kids got educated before tax payer funded schools existed?

    Parents, tutors, churches, local communities.

    But today we have the internet – you will get a better education with an internet connection and personal computer.

    Wikipedia – a great example of how the free market works – no taxpayer subsidies, completely volunteer and donation based project.

    @Heidi:

    Congressman Ron Paul has returned $141,580 of unspent office funds to the US Treasury. This represents just over 9% of the total office funds, and an increase over the $100,000 returned last year.

    http://www.ronpaul.com/2011-03-29/ron-paul-returns-unused-portion-of-office-budget-to-us-treasury/

    Sets such a great example. Returning the stolen money taxes back to the people who steal from us everyday.

    The US Dollar is inherently a con-system. Study up on the Money, Banking, and the Federal Reserve.

    ~WR

  • Drakk

    Taxation is theft.

    Then move to Somalia. I’m pretty sure you don’t need to pay governments any of your money there.

    Too extreme? Maybe you can just vote with your wallet and not use roads, electricity, running water or gas.

    1) Rights belong to individuals, not groups; they derive from our nature and can neither be granted nor taken away by government.

    Wait, wait, which lot was it that were trying to take away rights from gay individuals?

  • Charles Black

    In other news NY state could legalise gay marriage if one more Republican senator says yes to gay rights.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/17/nyregion/stephen-saland-seen-as-pivotal-in-same-sex-marriage-vote.html

  • ff42

    @cat

    “@Wally, no education quality does not go up when you elimate (sic) public schools. What it leaves you with is a massive portion of the population illiterate, and the small literate minority either educated at rich private schools or highly relgious (sic) schools.”

    And what is the result of 150 years of government run schools? Oh yeah “a massive portion of the population illiterate”. What percentage of those entering government schools graduate? What % can read or write at a 12th grade level? What % ever read a book again in their lives? You might want to read up on history and see how well educated Americans were before the onslaught of ‘public’ education.

  • ACN

    Wally is a loud troll, don’t feed him.

  • cat

    @ff42, the US, which had very high literacy rates at the time (and which did have a few public schools), had a quarter of men and even more women totally illiterate in the 1700s (the South had even higher illiteracy rates, even when counting only white males). Whereas today, the illiteracy rate is almost zero. The problem with education is not public schools, but that public schools are underfunded. As usual, libertarians have no basic understanding of history.

  • Dan W

    Wally’s posts are exactly why I’ll never be a libertarian. Because taxes are good if you want a government to be able to do anything, and everyone has a right to health care, inexpensive education, and to not be discriminated against by bigots. Libertarian ideas are a big fuck you to the poor who can’t afford to pay for private education and health care, and basically say fuck you to hated minorities as well by doing nothing to protect them from discrimination.
    Libertarians say they’re for more freedom, but they support policies that would only ensure more freedom for rich white men while everyone else is screwed over and left to fend for themselves.

  • Hermann

    …1…0

    Conservative christian has arrived …

    no problem – free speech and the right to assemble for everyone!!

    and now??

    Shalom
    Hermann

  • @Nathan:

    Warn people when you put up links to hate sites, please?

    @Hermann:

    Liar! You’re not a Conservative Christian!

    You signed your post “Shalom.”

    (j/k of course)

  • Hermann

    Sh%t! I am found out!

    No real scotsman, I just wear a kilt!

    Shalom
    Hermann

  • @Hermann:

    I’m not a Scotsman either – I wear a tartan skirt. (What? I’m transgender)

    I know I’ll be rejoicing the day that I never have to worry about the majority of a group of Christians saying I’m evil because I love the man I’m currently dating. Until then, I’m glad for Conservative Christians who can agree that we’re allowed to speak and exist in this country.

  • Hermann

    You´re welcome!
    and anyway, Im “talking” to you, not some sexual identity!

    Shalom
    Hermann

  • I’m a fan of FA – I was one of Hemant’s biggest supporters before he got popular – I spread the news and perhaps influenced him to get on Reginald Finley’s Infidelguy show.

    I’m also one of Hemant’s biggest critics, so my criticism – as rude and harsh as it may seem – is constructive.

    And remember the first atheists that got atheism in the mainstream were firebrand trolls – Maddie O’Hair – so I’m trolling for serious discussion and debate which I haven’t seen much of anywhere in the New Atheism blogosphere, but there are some cracks like here:

    Kudos to Sam Ogden for bringing up this important topic.

    I’m one of the organizers of the Houston Skeptic Society, the local skeptics group in my town, and at our monthly Skeptics in the Pub gathering the other night, some of the members engaged in what became a passionate conversation about the level at which it is appropriate for a government to regulate markets. Some favored a great deal of regulation, saying, among other things, that it was necessary to take care of individuals intellectually incapable of to taking care of themseleves. Others favored very little regualtion, only allowing governments to intervene in cases, for example, where environmental risks were a concern. And still others favored a totally free market system, devoid of all government regulation on business.

    Now of course this is probably not a usual topic of discussion for most skeptic meetups, and considering it is quite complex, the conclusions one might draw are not always black and white. But I was impressed with the level of critical thinking all sides had put into their arguments. And so I thought I’d open the floor to you all to see what your awesome brains can do (or have done) with this subject.

    Feel free to branch off in other directions, but I’ll start you off by asking . . .

    Are you in favor of regulating markets? Why?
    Are you against regulating? Why?
    Do you think totally free markets would be self-regulating?
    Do you think Sam should find other topics of discussion?

    http://skepchick.org/2011/06/ai-market-regulations/

    ~WR

    And thanks for not censoring me Hemant. 😉