Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Utah high school gay-straight club still hotly debated by parents

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From The Daily Herald: Gay club still hot topic for parents Anna Chang-Yen DAILY HERALD The Provo City School District Board of Education will likely face a crowd of parents concerned about a Gay-Straight Alliance at Provo High at its meeting tonight. Director of Student Services Greg Hudnall said he's fielded "a lot" of calls since a proposed club policy was posted on the district's Web site after a student applied to start the club in October. The policy requires parental permission for non-curricular clubs and otherwise regulates on-campus groups. Hudnall said he's gotten calls from parents who vehemently oppose the club to those who see no way around letting the GSA form. The club got the OK from Principal Sam Ray on Oct. 14. Superintendent Randy Merrill has told board members that the Equal Access Act requires the district to let the club form or have no non-curricular clubs at all. "We've had calls from angry parents. They're very concerned about it," Hudnall said. "I've heard everything from, 'Let everybody sue us' to the same kind of comments during the school board meeting, 'Take a stand. Exile Utah from the United States.' " He has told parents to attend the meeting, he said. "I would think there'll be a huge turnout." Stephen F. Graham, president of the Standard of Liberty Foundation, based in Pleasant Grove and Columbia, Md., said he will attend to voice his opposition to the club. He has sent the district and board members a packet containing about 50 pages of documents supporting his position that the district could be sued for allowing the club, saying it promotes an unhealthy behavior. He cites a state law that allows schools to reject clubs when necessary to "protect the physical, emotional, psychological, or moral well being of students and faculty." "It's because the school district is endangering their students," Graham said. "That's the state law that we have that also charges the school board with maintaining the health and safety -- emotional, psychological, moral and physical -- of students." Students who come out as homosexuals after attending club meetings and later contract the HIV virus and AIDS, also could sue the board, he said. "As a result of our state law, we think they're under legal obligation not to allow that club." In a news release issued Monday, Graham said the foundation will kick off a nationwide campaign to tell school boards they don't have to let GSAs form, beginning with his speech to the Board of Education. "We believe that schools are legally obligated to ensure that children are protected from outside influences that could lead to such endangerment," Graham said. "When schools serve in loco parentis of a child, and then fail to observe the duty to protect that child, they will face the threat of lawsuits that taxpayers will be forced to pay to defend against." The speech is not listed on the agenda, and Hudnall said if Graham attends, he will be given three minutes to speak -- the same amount of time offered to other members of the community who speak at meetings. In the release, Graham said the foundation was organized in June "to produce and disseminate multimedia educational material to counteract radical political movements that advance falsehoods and ideologies which are outside God's laws and disadvantageous to society." Board members will discuss the proposed club policy at a study session at 4:45 p.m. (no public input allowed), and at its regular meeting at 7 p.m. at the district office at 280 West 940 North. Anna Chang-Yen can be reached at 344-2549 or annac@heraldextra.com. This story appeared in The Daily Herald on page D1. Original Source: click here