Pennsylvania School Board Blocks Formation of Gay-Straight Alliance March 1, 2013

Pennsylvania School Board Blocks Formation of Gay-Straight Alliance

Members of the Chambersburg School Board (in Pennsylvania) this week voted against allowing a gay-straight alliance club (GSA) to form at a local high school.

The school board had been considering whether to allow a GSA to form since January, when they took issue with a potential club’s constitution. Modeled after national GSA policy, the constitution provided that students could select their own club adviser; the school board countered that it was their policy to have the administration select an adviser instead. The debate devolved from there.

At a board meeting Wednesday, audience members told the board that successful GSA clubs in other districts gave LGBT students a safe space, and that this need was not being met in Chambersburg:

Shippensburg educator Stephanie Metz, a Chambersburg resident, pointed out that Shippensburg schools have had a GSA for eight years, even though is it smaller and less diverse than the Chambersburg district.

“Do not promote ignorance by voting ‘no.’ Narrow-minded viewpoints seem to be pervasive on this board,” she said. As a taxpayer, she said she also does not want to see her tax dollars used on a court case, because the equal opportunity for groups to form is part of the constitution.

Audience members also cited statistics demonstrating the higher rates of depression and suicide among LGBT youth. Nonetheless, the board voted 5-4 to deny students the right to have a campus GSA. Their reasoning was baffling:

Carl Barton said he fields parent calls about bullying in the schools, and that those cases fall into the categories of students being bullied because of special needs, physical disability, being overweight or being “anorexic.” He said he only heard of one bullying case loosely associated to the student’s sexual orientation.

Board member Norm Blowers said the club’s structure as proposed is not designed to address bullying.

Students who were present also recognize that the school board is out of line:

GSA President Amber Fogelsonger said one of the board members who voted against the group said that the alliance is similar to the existing multi-cultural group and therefore would be unnecessary.

“This time we’re going to take legal action because they cannot technically deny us, because if there are three other clubs in school that are not school-related, they cannot by law deny our club,” Fogelsonger said.

Here’s hoping these students find the momentum to fight back with swift legal action. I’m certain these school board members have reasons for denying the GSA that they’re not stating, but isn’t that always the way?

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