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Today is Tuesday, November 27, 2007


High School Students Won't Take `No' for an Answer

[TEXAS] - From Lubbock to Round Rock, students at high schools across the state are fighting to create and sustain their own local GLBT support organizations.

The Texas Human Rights Foundation (THRF) announced this week it had assisted students at Round Rock's McNeil High School in establishing a new gay-straight alliance. THRF credited a persevering student who despite the school's initial refusal to approve the formation of the group, found a way to convince administrators to reverse their position.

Shaun [last name withheld], a student at McNeil High, sought to establish a gay-straight alliance after seeing such a group on the television show Popular. He discussed the idea first with his close friends and teachers. Upon approaching the school's administration, he was surprised to learn his principal refused to recognize such a

"Most of my friends are very supportive, and almost all the teachers that I have talked to about the GSA have said that it is a wonderful idea and that they were surprised no one had started it sooner," said Shaun.

He continued in his efforts, contacting GLBT groups in the area for assistance, and was offered help by the THRF, a legal assistance
organization which advocates for GLBT causes, and input from other concerned GLBT groups.

"THRF has a long history of helping student groups establish gay-straight alliances in the face of administrative opposition," said
Donna Davis, the Legal Director of THRF. "We've helped to form a number of student groups, including those at Texas A&M and Texas Tech, and recently assisted a group at Baylor University as well. It was clear to us that the McNeil High students needed our assistance."

In early November, the THRF sent a letter to the school's administration outlining its concerns.

"I've learned that the fastest way to resolve these sorts of situations is to calmly and rationally explain to the school
officials that other schools have GSAs and that such groups offer social and educational benefits to their members. Contrary to some school officials' opinions, the establishment of such groups does not
lead to a parade of horribles," remarked Jose Plata, a former Dallas School Board official and a current THRF board member.

On November 14, just days after the letter was sent, the student announced that the administration had reversed its position. Shaun's group, the McNeil High Lesbian, Bi, and Gay-Straight Alliance, has been established.

"It is heartening to see that school officials are finally recognizing that gay-straight alliances have a place in our public schools," said Davis.

Shaun is currently publicizing his group throughout the 2,300-student school and planning activities for the upcoming year.

While students at the high school in Round Rock were celebrating, some in Lubbock were preparing for a different fight after a request to post fliers on school bulletin boards announcing meetings of a gay
student group was denied by school officials.

Gay and Proud Youth (GAP), a gay student group at a Lubbock high school recently requested permission to post fliers on campus bulletin boards. Permission was denied and now members say the battle
could be headed to court.

"That's one of the options we've discussed with our legal adviser," Ricky Waite, vice president of Gay and Proud Youth told the
Associated Press. "We hope it doesn't go to such extremes, but we're not willing to give up."

Waite asked trustees to overturn the district's decision during a four-minute presentation at the Lubbock's school board meeting Thursday. Board members did not discuss the request, ask questions or
announce a decision. Board president Mark Griffin said the trustees may respond within two weeks.

In the meantime, the American Civil Liberties Union is working with GAP Youth in its effort to gain the same access as other non-curricular groups. Lubbock superintendent, Jack Clemmons says the
district has already spoken to attorneys about the situation.

"Any time you deal with ACLU you have to know there's a potential legal concern out there," Clemmons said.

Clemmons and ACLU board member Harvey Madison discussed the group's request before school officials denied it. Now if the board of trustees decides to back school administrators on this decision, the
ACLU says GAP Youth will consider court action.

"That leaves us without too many options except to go to court, which we would reluctantly do," Clemmons said.

Because of the request by the gay student organization, the district is considering denying bulletin board access to all non-curricular groups. For now, Griffin and Clemmons are both reportedly claiming
GAP Youth has been denied access because of student safety concerns.

He says allowing the group to post fliers could cause a disruption or discipline problem on campus.

"If we allowed this group access to the campus, then we would have to turn right around and be faced with an anti-gay group wanting access to our campus," said Clemmons. "We've already heard from some
parents; we've heard from some students. We think that would be something that would occur in the future."

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