Nathan Carroll, an openly gay teenager at Sequoyah High School in Madisonville, TN, was sick of the homophobia in his halls. “Just yesterday, students across the room would yell, ‘God hates gays,’” Carroll, a senior, told WATE in Knoxville. To combat the bullying and harrassment he witnessed on campus, Carroll decided to start a Gay Straight Alliance. Carroll collected 150 signatures from other students who support the club.
But when he presented the petition to his principal, Maurice Moser, Carroll was threatened with suspension. Additionally, LGBTQ Nation reports, Moser announced that copies of the petition would be confiscated, “torn up and thrown away, and that [students found with the petition would be] sent immediately to his office for further punishment.”
Speaking to LGBTQ Nation’s Jamie McGonnigal, Moser said arguments over the proposed GSA were “disturbing the educational environment.” He dismissed the need for student-lead antibullying measures, stating that school officials deal with harrassment when bullied students report an incident with “sufficient proof.”
Unfortunately, this policy doesn’t address the needs of students who are afraid to come forward. Students who are bullied for being LGBT (or perceived as being LGBT) are often scared that reporting an incident will “out” them. Verbal harrassment can also be difficult to substantiate when faculty or other adults are not present.
Carroll, meanwhile, believes he is facing opposition due to misconceptions about the purpose of a GSA. “It’s a support group,” he told WATE. “It’s about sexual orientation, but it’s not talking about sex in general. It’s where you can go and you can talk about how you feel.”
Despite Moser’s disapproval, Carroll and his supporters can still legally start the GSA if they can find a faculty sponsor. The group has no plans to give up their efforts.
Karyn Storts-Brinks, a GSA faculty sponsor at Fulton High School in North Knoxville, told the students via WATE, “The most important thing they need to know is their group has a legal right to exist.”
Photo credit: Caitlin Childs (Creative Commons Share Alike)