Where Are The Graphics?

Home | Resources | Calendar | Receive Announcements | Submit a Resource | Advertise on this Site!
Today is Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Gay-rights Decision Protested at E. Kentucky School

Allowing group to meet sparks student boycott

[Eastern KY] - Hundreds of Boyd County High School students stayed home yesterday to protest the school's decision to allow a gay-rights student group to meet on school grounds.

Of the school's 990 students, 420 were not in school yesterday, said district superintendent Bill Capehart.

Most absent students were boycotting because of last week's vote by the school's teacher-parent council on the Gay-Straight Alliance, Capehart said.

The students will be counted as absent for the day, Capehart said.

A ministers' group is planning a community protest of the alliance Sunday.

The council's 3-2 vote was its third this year about the group. It rejected the group's application twice before student organizers contacted the American Civil Liberties Union, which sent a letter in September to the council saying it was violating the federal Equal Access Act by denying the alliance permission to meet at the school in Cannonsburg. The act says if schools allow some extracurricular groups to meet at school, it must allow all groups to do so.

Andrea Opell, 17, a senior from Rush, stayed out of school for part of the morning to participate in the protest, but later showed up because she wanted to attend swim practice later in the day.

''It's just quiet and gloomy,'' Andrea said. ''There's not a lot going on. Not a lot of cars in the parking lot. Not a lot of people in the hallway.''

She said it was unclear how many students stayed away because they opposed the GayStraight Alliance and how many decided to just take a day off, especially with another free day today because of the election.

But she said ''parents are behind the kids 100 percent'' and the boycott could extend until tomorrow or later.

Jenny Reese, mother of Lena Reese, a 15-year-old Catlettsburg sophomore who is a member of the alliance, called the boycott ridiculous.

''I just don't think it's a good idea for parents to let their children stay home from school,'' Reese said. ''It doesn't set a good example for tolerance.''

Reese said her daughter and other supporters of the alliance also were out of school yesterday on a school-sponsored trip.

James Esseks, litigation director for the ACLU's lesbian and gay- rights project, said the boycott represented ''the first time I've heard of a reaction of this kind or this size'' to the creation of a gay-straight alliance at a school.

''The level of reaction or resistance they're encountering illustrates the need for a safe place for these kids to meet,'' Esseks said. ''Can you imagine being a gay or lesbian student in a community where people feel so free in expressing their intolerance? That must be a difficult place to be.''

The boycott was the latest development in the battle to start an alliance and meet on school grounds.

After the council's vote last week on the Gay-Straight Alliance, more than 100 students walked out of school Wednesday, Capehart said. All but 24 returned, he said.

One student was arrested on charges of destroying student property and harassing a teacher, he said. That student is suspended indefinitely, he added.

Also last week, the Rev. Tim York, pastor at Heritage Temple Free Will Baptist Church in Cannonsburg, and the Rev. Bill Bentley, pastor at First United Methodist Church in Catlettsburg, appealed the council's decision. They urged the council to further study the legal issue.

Capehart said that appeal will first be considered by the council. If council members don't reverse their decision, opponents can appeal to him and ultimately to the district's school board.

But Capehart has said federal court rulings indicate that schools must allow gay-straight alliances to meet on school grounds if they also allow other noncurricular clubs access to school facilities.

York, president of the Boyd County Ministerial Association, said the association is planning a community rally against the Gay-Straight Alliance for Sunday. He said ministers that oppose the alliance did not organize the boycott of classes yesterday and have urged students to stay in school.

''The community is really upset,'' York said about the alliance meeting in the school. ''There's a moral issue here that's brought us to a place of discussion.''

Meanwhile, the alliance held its first Boyd County meeting Friday, with 19 students in attendance, teacher-adviser Kaye King said.

Reese said the meeting did not cause a disruption at school.

Andrea Opell said the class boycott was not an organized effort. The idea, she said, gained currency last week as students who opposed the alliance talked about how to voice their dissent.

After Wednesday morning's confrontation, the idea of staying home from school yesterday emerged as a nonviolent alternative. But she said she is worried that tensions at the school could escalate into violence.

''Anything could happen,'' Andrea said. ''A lot of people say it will die down, and I hope it does. I hope it doesn't get violent. I hope it doesn't get out of hand.''

Andrea Hildebran, executive director of the Kentucky Fairness Alliance, a Louisville-based gay-rights group, said she was ''really taken aback'' by the size of the protest.

''It sounds like a dramatic reaction to what in most schools isn't an earth-shattering development, to have a GSA formed,'' Hildebran said.

She said she hopes that the opposition to the Gay-Straight alliance doesn't deter the students who belong to it.

''There are hundreds of ways that gay kids are intimidated in school, and this could be one more,'' she said.

Capehart said classes went on as scheduled yesterday and attendance didn't fall at any of the county's other schools.

He said he welcomed students' and parents' desire to express their opinions about the council's decision. But he said boycotting school is not a good way to do it.

Check out this House About Our News Feed | Get Our News Feed (XML)
Search Google
Search Google |