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Tennessee Student Discouraged From Forming LGBT Club

Tennessee Student Discouraged From Forming LGBT Club

 

Openly gay Wilson Central High School senior Chris Bauman says that his application to form a gay support group at his school has met with a mixture of silence and opposition since he submitted the application over a month ago, despite federal law being clear that if the school allows other groups it must also allow students to form a Gay Straight Alliance or equivalent forum.

Bauman wants to create the club due to a number of bullying related suicides in the state of Tennessee.

However, he says that a month on from submitting his application, complete with a list of names of students wanting to join and teachers willing to support the group, his application has met with silence and, after meeting with the school’s principal last Wednesday, he has even been given the impression that administration would prefer him to drop the idea.

Quotes garnered by The Tennessean suggest that Bauman may be right:

One Wilson school board member, who also is a school resource officer with the sheriff’s office, raised religious objections. “That’s not saying anything negative toward those people, that I’m any more valuable than they are,” school board member Greg Lasater said. “They’ve got a right to education just like the normal, the regular ‘John Doe’ kid out here would have.

“If I had to vote, just from my own Christian values — nothing against those folks — it would be hard for me as a board member to support it,” he said.

[...]

The request went up the chain from the school’s principal to Director of Schools Mike Davis and finally to the county attorney for review.

Davis said he doesn’t see how the proposed club would add value to the school. He also said he doesn’t want exclusive clubs. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes, for instance, is open to non-athletes, he said.

“There are some students who believe their sexual orientation is gay or lesbian, and there are kids who believe that they’re not,” Davis said. “I don’t know that that’s something we can address at the public school level.”

Under the Equal Access Act of 1984 it is illegal to prevent students from forming particular groups if other student groups are allowed — for instance, if a school allows a sports club or a chess club they must allow other clubs like a GSA. Therefore this is not a matter of what Davis feels will add value to the school but rather of complying with federal law.

Also, a gay support group does not preclude straight people joining. In fact, GSAs positively encourage straight allies to join in order to better facilitate tolerance, mutual respect and understanding.

Tennessee House lawmakers are of course expected to take up the now infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill this week. The legislation would ban mention of sexuality through K-8 except in teaching about reproduction.  There has been concern that the legislation would itself hamper efforts to combat anti-LGBT bullying because it would prevent teachers from being able to effectively discuss sexuality outside the narrow confines of reproduction. Get the latest on the bill here.

 

Related Reading:

Don’t Say Gay Bill Needed to Keep Indoctrinating Children, Claims Rep

Tennessee Senate Okays ‘Don’t Say Gay’ in School Bill

TN ‘Don’t Say Gay’ in Schools Bill Unlikely To Get House Vote Before 2012

Tennesseans Go to Court Over State Ban on Gay Nondiscrimination Ordinance


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Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to McDowell-Craig.

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69 comments

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10:07AM PDT on Jun 15, 2012

wow. This is an issue of discrimination. push for this in EVERY school that is interested!

12:42PM PDT on Jun 6, 2012

Don't give up Chris! You will win!

11:55AM PDT on Mar 15, 2012

They cannot deny this club. Period. And to Board member Mr. Lasater, sir, you showed your bigotry as soon as you said "those people". Shame on you.

9:27AM PST on Mar 5, 2012

Michele, being lesbian and gay and bi is about a lot more than being bullied. A LGBT support group is NOT just a "support group for the bullied."

1:25PM PST on Mar 4, 2012

Wilson County should take some notes from Rutherford County where there is a very active GSA club at Central Magnet school, a school that is only 2 years old and had a GSA club formed by the students in its first year. They teach about tolerance and anti-bullying and encourage straight students to join to support their friends and discourage hate and bullying of other lifestyles.

2:47PM PST on Mar 2, 2012

While I do not agree with the LGBT lifestyle, I have to support the kids. LGBT teens have much higher suicide rates than their hetero peers, and they are subjected to horrific mistreatment -- and all because of their sexual orientation?? I'm sorry, but we have to consider the whole person.

The LGBT groups should be open to ANY student, including those hetero students who are also bullied. I can see this support group being more effective if it were called a support group for the bullied rather than an LGBT group.

2:01PM PST on Mar 2, 2012

The Bible Belt is indeed UNHEALTHY! Discriminatory and Dysfunctional with a dire need of a healthy kick in the pants (and education) !!!

9:57AM PST on Mar 2, 2012

Chris has every right to form a support group, the school should not deny that right.

7:40AM PST on Mar 2, 2012

Don't give up. It will get better. Talk to the ACLU. School authorities hate them for good reason.

Bravo, to your courage and willingness to fight.

4:10AM PST on Mar 2, 2012

Love that term 'discouraging' in the title.

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