News lacking in South Rowan GSA progress

GSA logoSince my last post on the Gay-Straight Alliance at South Rowan High School (April 17, 2006) news on the subject has been extremely lacking. It is hard to know the progress of what is happening with the GSA although I am told there are some steps being taken by those involved.

We should be hearing something within the next few weeks at least.

The most recent mention of the South Rowan Gay-Straight Alliance is in an editorial written in Q-Notes on April 22, 2006. The editor of the paper, David Moore, writes on the subject and focuses on the attack from Operation Save America. He also includes a bit about South Rowan student Britney Sharpe. The backlash against her and others in the school was, no doubt, excruciating:

One of the two advisors who were supporting the club has already backed off because she says she’s afraid she’ll lose her job.

According to Sharp, Principal Turbeyfill and Vice Principal East are being “reassigned” to other schools.

Meanwhile, Sharp’s days at school have grown increasingly difficult.

“The next day at school there were about 15 people wearing those Operation Save America shirts,” says Sharp.

“A lot of them walked past me and Jeff, my best friend, and they would say stuff like ‘Shut Down! You got your gay club taken away!’

“Then later in the day after it was decided that I should leave the campus for my own safety, they were screaming things at me like ‘Carpet muncher! You and your lesbian lover are going to hell!”

In another extremely unusual incident, Sharp recalls a time in her Algebra class when a student sitting next to her pulled out his Bible and started reading from it.”

According to Sharp the class advisor Rose Chorriher, “didn’t do anything about it until the end of the class.”

Despite the fact the student was in an Algebra class and not a biblical study course makes it clear that his feigned “reading” was in protest to Sharp’s presence. The fact that the class advisor did not intervene until mere moments before the class bell rang confirms that she was not concerned about Sharp and other students being distracted from their appropriate course of learning.

The minutes from the April 10, 2006 Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education meeting show, without a doubt, that the members of the Board of Education know exactly what they have done by creating a policy to ban the club: They have broken federal law, namely, the Federal Equal Access Act of 1984. Notice not only the horribly prejudiced speech but also how the Board members try to work their way around the law standing in their way (emphasis added, with my remarks in red):

Discussion Items

Request Information on Clubs in our Schools by Mr. Shuping

Mr. Shuping said this issue needed to be addressed. Mr. Shuping said he would like to ban all sexually oriented clubs in our schools. Mr. Shuping said this issue needed to be addressed; this is Rowan County, not New York City. And these aren’t “sexually oriented clubs.” Do they think the kids are getting together to have sex or something? If that is the case maybe they should shut down the football team and cheerleader squad.

Mr. Sayers said that the Education Law of NC addresses the Equal Access Act. Mr. Sayers said the federal law that was passed by congress in 1984 to remedy the religious clubs not being allowed to have a club on school grounds. If the school receives federal funds, they have to comply with the Equal Access Act. The school is classified as a limited open forum if it allows any non-curricular club to meet on school property.

Mr. Sayers said that the EAA law was primarily to assist in religious clubs on a school campus and has not dealt directly with a sexually oriented club. Really? I’m pretty sure that the Forsyth County Board of Education had to give into GSAs directly becae of the EAA.

Dr. Emerson asked if there was a determination between a service club and non-curricular club.

Mr. Sayers said a service club did make a school a limited open forum.

Mrs. Norman asked why the students wanting the Gay/Straight Alliance Club did not choose to be a part of the existing club that promotes tolerance, if that is what they are wanting to accomplish. Huh? Hello Lady?! They want to start their own club… evidently the issues they care about aren’t adequately being addressed elsewhere.

Dr. Turbyfill said there is a multi-mix club that promotes tolerance of diversity. Dr. Turbyfill said he advised the students wishing to begin the Gay/Straight Alliance they could be members of any other club at the school without forming their club. Discrimination… pure and simple… “You can’t have your own group… you just can’t.”

Mr. Beard said he sees the community at South Rowan does not want to accept this club, but the board also does not want to stigmatize the children. Mr. Beard said he finds this to be a difficult decision. It doesn’t matter what the community thinks. Federal law says you either accept the club or lose your federal cash… we wouldn’t want that now would we?

Mr. Shuping said the Board Policy Handbook has a policy against bullying and harassment. Mrs. Norman asked if the board would be receiving information on a revision of the policy for student-initiated, non-curricular clubs.

Dr. King said Mr. Smith is working on the revision of this policy.

**Mr. Shuping moved to adopt a board policy to ban all sexually oriented clubs, gay/straight or otherwise, and to address any student emotional issues concerning the above with our guidance counselors.

Mrs. Freeze seconded.

Mr. Huffman agreed with Mr. Shuping and Mrs. Freeze, but cautioned there may be ramifications such as other well-established clubs not being able to meet on our campuses. Mr. Huffman said we may loose some very good organizations because of the Equal Access Law.

Mr. Beard asked if it was worth getting rid of all clubs at the expense of banning this club. Ok… this one statement makes it pretty clear as to what they are trying to do… they want to get rid of the Gay-Straight Alliance, not all “sexually-oriented clubs.”

Mr. Sayers said it may be wise, that if this motion is to be presented to comply with the EAA, to add “that if the creation of this club would materially and substantially interfere with the orderly conduct of educational activities within the school.” Mr. Shuping agreed and requested the statement be added to his motion.

Mrs. Deal asked Dr. Turbyfill if the creation of the club had caused a disruption to the school.

Dr. Turbyfill said they have continued to have class and hold school as usual.

Mr. Shuping said he feels when things can be interpreted one way or the other, the board should make a decision.

Mrs. Norman said the board has to make decisions so that administrators can operate at the school level. Mrs. Norman said when the policy is exercised; it needs to be exercised fairly.

Mr. Beard called for the question.

The motion was read again for clarification: Mr. Shuping moved to adopt a board policy to ban all sexually oriented clubs, gay/straight or otherwise, and to address any student emotional issues concerning the above with our guidance counselors, if the creation of the club would materially and substantially interfere with the orderly conduct of educational activities within the school.

Unanimously approved. (7:0) Looks like they are going to need a good lawyer, because all of them, along with the school system, will soon be involved in a huge, FEDERAL lawsuit.

And…. if you think that the some of the Board members were either a little off, horribly prejudiced or just completely insane… wait ’till you see the comments made by some of the community members. Only two community members are recorded as speaking in favor of the GSA; one of those community members was the president of the local PFLAG group:

Brian Johnson – Mr. Johnson said he is definitely against the Gay/Straight Alliance Club and any other high school it may filter into. Mr. Johnson does not feel this club has a place in the schools. Mr. Johnson said he doesn’t believe the club has a right to be in the schools.

Carl Ford – a resident of Kannapolis. Mr. Ford is against the Gay/Straight Alliance Club. Mr. Ford said many in the community are against the club at the school.

Terry Brown, a Rowan County resident. Rev. Brown is against the formation of the Gay/Straight Alliance Club at South Rowan High School. Rev. Brown urged the board members to abolish the club.

Jeff Simpson, a Pastor in Rowan County. Rev. Simpson asked the board members to concern themselves about what God said on the matter of homosexuality.

David Franks, a Landis resident and Pastor of First Reformed Church in Landis. Mr. Franks thanked the board for their time. Pastor Franks was against the Gay/Straight Alliance Club. Leigh Burnham, asked to give her time to Chris Huffstettler.

Chris Huffstettler, a resident of Concord. Mr. Huffstettler was also against the Gay/Straight Alliance Club at South Rowan.

Barbara Wilson, a China Grove resident spoke of her opposition to the Gay/Straight Alliance Club at South Rowan.

Mike Clawson, a resident of Salisbury. Mr. Clawson is current president of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. He said these children deserve the rights as other children in the school system.

Ritchie Brigman. Mr. Brigman said he is against the club at South Rowan. Mr. Brigman said when he went to South Rowan, no kind of club of this type was even thought of.

Brandson Major, a resident of Salisbury. Mr. Major spoke on the Equal Access Act mandated in 1994. Mr. Major asked if we are actually hearing the voice of the minority.

Dean Hunter spoke against the Gay/Straight Alliance Club at South Rowan.

This whole situation is just extremely un-nerving, upsetting and frustrating. It seems as though there is nothing that can reallybe done about it either. The only thing that will ever change this Board’s mind is either a lawsuit or a good threat of one. Why would this Board, which supposedly cares about its students, waste thousands of dollars in tax-payer money to defend themselves in this inevitable legal battle. All that money down the drain when the outcome is already known: The Board will lose.

Sadly though, Rowan County is not alone when it comes to GSA battles. I found out today from my friend and colleague Brandon Greeson, that a similar happening has gone down in Cleveland County. The situation in Cleveland County, however, is worse for the students involved. Although I can’t give out any particular details of the happenings right now, I can say this… be aware Cleveland County folks: We are watching and we are keeping track… you mess up and people will know about it.

Past posts relating to the GSA at South Rowan:

Click here for the most up-to-date information on the South Rowan GSA

5 Responses to “News lacking in South Rowan GSA progress”
  1. Do you know if a parent from South Rowan plans to file suit to enforce EAA or perhaps will the ACLU of NC take up the case??

    Seems that if the ACLU would write a few letters, make a few calls, and threaten to sue – the Board would hopefully realize that their decision is a Federal no-no…

    What amazes me the most is that these type of decisions are made all of the time. School Boards willingly and I assume knowingly break Federal Laws (whether it be EEA or some type of 1st Amendment Separation of Church/State blatant violation)…

  2. Matt says:

    There are some steps being taken by those involved. As a person not directly involved in the case and only as an outside, interested individual, I cannot elaborate on some of the things I have been told… some of which might not be entirely accurate. From the minutes of that meeting, however, it seems very clear to me that the members of the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education are perfectly aware that they could be in trouble with the EAA; they are just trying to find ways around the law. The reality is that they will never find a way around it, unless they are willing to shut down all extra-curricular/non-curricular student organizations.

    You are right though. Schools and Boards of Education break federal law all the time. Colleges and Universities do it all the time, too (example: UNCG and their recently changed unconstitutional “free speech zones”). In the post I mention a situation in Cleveland County Schools. Everyone involved in these issues in North Carolina are well aware of numerous cases where school administrators and Boards of Education are either breaking the law or restricting students’ rights. It is hard, however, to do anything about all of these cases because of a few things: (1) Lack of resources (money, time, volunteers) and (2) the lack of students willing to step up and report the problems out of fear and retribution from the school administrators or other students.

    In time though, all of these situations will come to a head. As for right now… All those school administrators and Boards of Education just need to be aware that people are aware and are watching what they are doing. If they mess up, people are going to know about it and they won’t get away with it.

  3. Reporter says:

    News is lacking because only one side wants to talk.
    I have yet to get a person who supports this group on camera. It’s not a “fair” story if there is only one side being interviewed. So the best option is to not cover it.
    And anyone who knows this community knows that you can’t exactly find someone who would support a group like this publicly, so trying to find the “man on the street” interview isn’t easy either.

  4. Matt says:

    Hi Reporter… shoot me an email (matt ‘at’ matthillnc ‘dot’ com or mhill2008 ‘at’ yahoo ‘dot’ com) when you can and let me know what you know so far. If you are worried about confidentiality just make sure you tell me what is “off the record” and what isn’t.

    I’ve been trying to keep up with this situation but I can’t. Like I said and you said, news is lacking plus I don’t live in Rowan County.

    It is sad that no one is willing to publicly support this group though. Gosh… if they ban this group that could mean a federal lawsuit. Someone definitely needs to be speaking up (but it shouldn’t be only the teens).

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] A commenter going by the name “Reporter” (oh I wonder why? lol) left this comment on a post about the South Rowan High School Gay-Straight Alliance (in the post, I had complained about news being slack on the subject): News is lacking because only one side wants to talk. […]

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