The addition of a Gay-Straight Alliance Club at WHS is long overdue.
At the most recent board meeting, USD 329 approved the founding of a Gay-Straight Alliance club. Officially, the board approved the consent agenda which included the item “Per BOE policy & Federal law grant equal access to a non-school sponsored Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) club.” There was no controversy in the discussion for the establishment of this club, and there really shouldn’t be.
We would like to emphasize the fact that it falls under the category of a non-curricular club. Non-curriculum related clubs, referred to in district policy as “non-school sponsored clubs,” are simply clubs that don’t relate directly to school curriculum. They may have political or religious affiliation like Fellowship of Christian Athletes. The school provides a space and an opportunity for them to operate, but doesn’t endorse or support them financially like they may with traditional clubs. The school requires a faculty member or an approved adult to supervise the group’s activities.
Junior Kwinton Willier proposed the club to the board, to be sponsored by art teacher Brianna Guinn and Spanish teacher/mental health liaison David Amer. Willier prepared a statement that included his reasons for the club and its purpose.
Its mission statement is as follows. “Our mission is to work towards a more accepting environment for all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity through education, support, social action, and advocacy. We believe that schools can be truly safe ONLY when every student is assured of access to an education without fear of harassment or violence.”
We believe that mission is an important one for our community.
In his statement, Willier addressed the need for the club at WHS.
“Many people that are a part of the LGBTQ+ community are afraid to “come out of the closet.” These people are especially in need of a safe area to be at when they do decide to “come out”. As a result of the article in the newspaper this last year, people have been afraid of what others will think and say of them, their mental and physical wellbeing. Within the GSA club, students would have a safe place and be with people they know that won’t judge them and create a network of students who will support their needs.”
The public response to a story about Pride month, published in June, does demonstrate some prejudice in the community. While most of the controversy focused on an image that some deemed disrespectful to the military, numerous emails and social media comments made it clear that some people in our community take issue with members of the LGBTQ community discussing their lives at all.
Posters advertising the first meeting were posted in the school last week, and by Friday most of them had been torn down. The club hung more posters Tuesday, and several had been removed or vandalized by Wednesday morning — so it’s not a stretch to say the club has some work to do to achieve its goals.
We think all students should feel comfortable enough in the school and community to be their true selves, and if this club helps encourage that, it’s a worthwhile endeavor.
The club’s first meeting is during adviser base October 8.
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