CHAMBERSBURG, PA – Students wanted to start an official Gay Straight Alliance club at Chambersburg Area Senior High School, but the school board voted against it.
The unofficial club now meets after school each week.
One of the group’s advisors says its goal is to support students who may face bullying.
“They really want to focus on bullying and bring more awareness about some of the issues that they deal with on a daily basis,” says teacher Susan Shuff, co-advisor of the group.
Students hoped to make it an official club, one that could fundraise, participate in school events and in the morning announcements.
But on Wednesday night, the school board voted 5 to 4 against allowing it in the school as a club.
Joan Smith, who voted in favor of the club, says it started in reaction to bullying and it’s not the school board’s place to prevent it.
“If it’s going to give them extra support with this club then I’m for that,” she says. “Because I believe that those kids need to have a safe haven, to have somebody to talk to about their issues, and if this is whats it’s going to take, so be it.”
Smith says personal opinions led some school board members to vote against it.
“If you have personal issues, you have to put those aside just think of the big picture of what is going on here,” she says.
The GSA says its goals are to create safe environments in schools, by educating about homophobia and fighting harassment and violence.
“We’re still hopeful that it can become official,” says Shuff.
The vote may directly violate the federal Equal Access Act. The act says if one group is allowed to meet at school, other groups must have equal access. The school district may face a lawsuit in response to the school board’s vote.
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