Gay-Straight Alliance Permitted in Effort to Preserve Other Extracurricular Activities

Farmington, NM

The Municipal School Board of Education in Farmington, New Mexico, has decided to permit a high school Gay-Straight Alliance club to form. Although some members had reservations about the club’s alleged sexual nature, the school board was motivated by the threat of losing all extracurricular clubs and activities if the Gay-Straight Alliance was banned.1

The federal Equal Access Act prohibits schools from allowing some extracurricular clubs and activities and not others. The American Civil Liberties Union supported the creation of the club on these grounds, and threatened legal action if the Gay-Straight Alliance was not allowed to form.2

Taking those warnings to heart, the school board weighed the value of other activities against its disapproval of the Gay-Straight Alliance club itself. The board’s deputy secretary said, “The choice to ban all clubs would eliminate any benefit we as a school board are currently contributing back to the community.”3 He cited Boy Scouts meetings, Little League baseball, and Special Olympics practices as some important uses of school facilities. The board felt those services were too valuable to lose, and decided to continue to permit any club, including the Gay-Straight Alliance, to form.

Some school board members upset with this decision are moving to lobby the state legislature in the hopes of a law that will allow them to ban the Gay-Straight Alliance while keeping other activities.4

In the meantime, the board is moving forward a new policy that places additional restrictions on club formation and participation. For example, under the new policy students will now be required to obtain parental permission for participation in activities. In addition, the board is setting up a committee to review content regulation procedures. Clubs may also have to reapply for formation on a yearly basis. The new policy was motivated by concerns over the potential content of the Gay-Straight Alliance. The board vice president, for example, was concerned that the club would discuss the “school-inappropriate topic of sex.” He said that he is “fearful of my kids talking about sexual topics away from my home.”5

One of the teachers involved in sponsoring the Gay-Straight Alliance is upset with these moves. She worries that having to reapply annually will simply create more overhead and work for the sponsors. She also believes that students should be allowed to participate in whatever clubs they want, regardless of parental permission.6

The school board was inundated with parent and community opinions when deliberating. Many were opposed to the Gay-Straight Alliance, while others supported an open policy on club formation. Reactions afterwards were also mixed. One parent worried about the potential “agenda” of groups such as the Gay-Straight Alliance, but understood the school board’s reasoning in its final decision.7

References

  1. Cory Frolik, “Gay-Straight club gets an OK: Board votes to uphold policy,” Daily Times (NM), 12 October 2007, accessed 16 October 2007, <www.daily-times.com/news/ci_7154055>.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.

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