The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

February 13, 2014

Gay Straight Alliance club gets school board approval

By Felicia A. Petro
Allied News Senior Reporter

GROVE CITY — Grove City school directors on Monday unanimously voted for the creation of a Gay Straight Alliance club at the high school – but were divided about removal of “sexual orientation” from proposed harassment policies.

Senior Beverly Blake, 18, sat through the nearly three-hour meeting waiting for the board’s final vote about the GSA club, which she asked them to approve at their work session last week.

Superintendent Dr. Richard Mextorf told the board about Blake at their January workshop after she became ill and couldn’t speak that night; she submitted a statement that was read by a teacher who will be the adviser for the club.

Some board members and residents expressed concerns about the GSA club at that initial meeting; however, their collective mind changed about the group – especially after hearing from Blake last week about her tough time at home and in school after revealing she was gay in seventh grade.

Although she graduates this year, she wanted to start the club as a support group for future students.

The board’s position on the district’s anti-harassment policies for students and teachers wasn’t as solid.

The sexual orientation term was taken out of the policies at January’s meeting against the recommendation of the superintendent, solicitor and Pennsylvania School Boards Association, which has been helping the district update its policies and procedures manual for 14 months.

Two additional classifications – “social status” and “economic circumstances” – were also removed, but the sexual orientation term was the most controversial by concerned residents who stood against it for months as well as some board members.

They all agreed that the terms were not federally mandated, like discrimination against people due to classifications such as race, religion, sex and national origin. Concerned residents presented articles about the term being added in policies as a way to push radical gay politics in schools – and silencing any opposition to their agendas by calling it bullying or harassment.

Such silencing efforts have resulted in successful lawsuits against similar policies in Pennsylvania schools.

Four members voted against the removal of the three classifications from the district’s harassment policies; three voted for the removal.

Faye Bailey, who has normally been against the additions, was not at the meeting; Adam Renick was also absent, but previously said he had no problem with the sexual orientation term.

With such a divided board, Mextorf wanted to think about “coming up with another recommendation ... to get an alternative solution everyone can live with,” he said.

Director Paul Gubba, who voted for removing the terms, said it was hard to gauge “the will of the board” when all members aren’t present.