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NC Dem youth travel Eastern parts of state

Voter registration, supporting our North Carolina troops, meetings with religious and community leaders. Youth from the North Carolina Democratic Party will do all of this and more this weekend as they travel in their “Eastern Caravan.”

A group of a dozen or more youth are traveling in vans across Eastern North Carolina in order to canvass voters, speak to leaders, pack support and gift packages for troops, aide in voter registration efforts and increase the strong, underlying support the Democratic Party surely has in what many consider one of the most conservative parts of the state outside of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

So far, the group has stopped in Lumberton, Clinton and Greenville. Tomorrow they’ll start of the day working with Give 2 the Troops, an organization that assembles care packages for soldiers, and then head to Windsor, Conway and Ahoskie.

They’ll be providing updates over at BlueNC.com. You can check out photos from their journey on Flickr.

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Morning Wrap

Don’t forget! Matt on WUNC/NC Public Radio’s State of Things today from Noon to 1pm. Chapel Hill, Greensboro, Raleigh: 91.5 FM; Winston-Salem, 90.5 FM. Or live online feeds. Here’s more on all that goodness.

Danielle Smiley, the teen who showed great courage in standing up for herself and for her gay-straight alliance in Currituck County, NC, was profiled in The Virginian-Pilot on Saturday. That girl has gone through some hell. She kind of reminds me of me when I was in high school. Congrats, Danielle and keep up the good work.

Southern Voice reporter thrown out of Focus on the Family‘s “Love Won Out” ex-gay conference in Georgia.
http://sovo.com/2006/11-10/view/editorial/exgay.cfm

PBS’ Frontline is going to have a special on Jim West, the disgraced former mayor of Spokane, Washington (h/t Pam). Did you know that he hit on the 18 year old son of a state senator? Now, that is stupid.

A Wisconsin state senator has made a move to void that state’s recently passed anti-gay marriage amendment prohibition on civil unions, domestic partnerships and other legal benefits, not including marriage.

An AP article in the Charlotte Observer claims “No guarantee of more liberal legislature” even with the increase of Democrats elected. I guess we do have to remember we are dealing with North Carolina Democrats, not Yankee Democrats, lol.

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GLSEN praises NC student’s courage

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), the leading national group for education and awareness on LGBT issues within education, released a statement on November 7, 2006 praising Currituck County, North Carolina, teenager Danielle Smiley and her courage in standing up for her gay-straight alliance.

The battle over the GSA at Currituck County High School received nation-wide media coverage. On November 6, 2006, the Currituck County School Board wisely chose to follow the law in allowing the club, although the new rules requiring parental permission to participate in student-initiated clubs is somewhat of a set-back. See a past post for more on the story behind the GSA battle and the school board decision.

From the statement:

“GLSEN is extremely proud of the courage Danielle Smiley has shown in her effort to establish a Gay-Straight Alliance,” said GLSEN Founder and Executive Director Kevin Jennings, a North Carolina native who as a teacher helped form the first GSA in 1988. “For Smiley to overcome the culture of misinformation and lack of understanding that far too often dominates these debates is an inspiration to all of us who value respect and the idea that all students have a right to a safe learning environment.”

Smiley does, indeed, deserve praise and recognition for her courage in rural, red-state North Carolina.

According to GLSEN there are over 3,000 GSAs in high schools across the country. More than 50 GSAs exist in North Carolina high schools (private and public). There are just under 400 public high schools in North Carolina.

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Judge rules in NC ‘Day of Truth’ case

A federal judge has ruled that Sampson County, NC, Midway High school student Benjamin Arthurs has the legal right to distribute anti-gay “Day of Truth” materials on the LGBT harassment and school climate awareness day known as the Day of Silence.

Alliance Defense Fund sued the Sampson County School Board on behalf of Arthurs on the basis that if gay students are allowed to pass out materials, then so should Arthurs. “Day of Truth” materials include two handouts, a FAQ on homosexuality and “The Ten Big Myths of Homosexual Behavior” (pdf’s). Both materials include un-scientific and un-factual information concerning LGBT people. Sources for the handouts’ claims are often sited as coming from conservative, right-wing religious groups like the Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America and Exodus International.

I wonder… If African-American students had a Black History Month event and some white students wanted to pass out information saying blacks should be slaves, using Scriptural passages which ordain slavery as appropriate… Would a federal judge allow that?

The safety of all students – both mentally and physically – should be ensured at school. Having right-wing religious fanatics go up to other students and tell them they are going to hell and blah, blah, blah certainly isn’t a way to ensure safety.

Past Posts: Day of Truth

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Last night, Monday, the Currituck County (NC) Board of Education approved a students’ request to start a gay-straight alliance at Currituck County High School (src). News surfaced late in the weekend that the Board would be deciding on the request on Monday (see past stories on the GSA in Currituck).

The Board didn’t do it without changing its policies a bit though. All students who want to participate in these non-school sponsored, student-initiated clubs (such as the gay-straight alliance and religious student organizations) will now have to receive written permission to do so. The clubs will also not be featured in the school yearbooks with other clubs.

Danielle Smiley, a 16 year old junior at Currituck County High requested to form the group back in September. Her request was shuffled off to the Board.

While it is a great thing that Currituck County officials didn’t follow in the foot steps of the Rowan-Salisbury School System in banning “sexually oriented clubs,” I do have to take issue with the new parental permission and notification policy.

Inevitably some students will be prevented from participating in the gay-straight alliance because their parents either refuse to give them permission or the students are still in the closet and not in the position to ask their parents for such permission. Students who cannot find support in other areas and desperately need support from their peers will not be able to get it and will be left out in the cold.

So, you ask, why don’t these students just go to their school counselors? I have heard so many stories of students who meet with school counselors to try to get some support or just to have some one listen to them. In these horrible stories, these supposed “safe” school counselors are the ones who break the students’ trust and tell their parents about their sexual orientation. In most situations, students who are in the closet do not feel comfortable discussing their situation with any adult, precisely because of the fear that their parents may find out. We do live in the South, after all.

I wish the Board would not have decided to implement a parental permission and notification policy. One day, I’m sure, that will change, but for now it is a good thing that students will at least have the gay-straight alliance in the school. Students who are not able to attend the group, either because they can’t tell their parents or because their parents refused permission, will still beenfit fromt he presence of the group and the work they will do to increase awareness, tolerance, respect and equality.

Congrats to Danielle Smiley, her friends, her school and her bitter-sweet victory.

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Currituck School officials to decide on GSA

I’ve written a little about this before.

A very courageous Currituck County High School junior wanting to start a gay-straight alliance (GSA) may get her answer from the Currituck County Board of Education as soon as Monday, November 6th.

According to an article from the Virginian-Pilot, the Board of Education may hand down its answer at its Monday meeting. The question of allowing the gay-straight alliance was passed off to the Board when junior Danielle Smiley, aged 16, requested to form the group in September.

The Board’s meeting agenda for Monday (PDF) includes time to talk about the policy regarding student-initiated, non-curricular clubs. The case is beginning to look like it may end up like the decision made by the Rowan-Salisbury School System back in August. According to the article, the Board may be (like Rowan) considering banning all “sexually-oriented” clubs.

An October 18th video news report from WVEC-13 details how this issue has become a hot topic in Currituck County. The County Board of Commissioners have already pledged their support, their money and their lawyer in order to keep out the GSA. The ACLU of North Carolina has noted that it will support the Currituck teen and her group.

The Virginian-Pilot article spoke a little with the ACLU of North Carolina:

So far, it has gone unchallenged. But Katy Parker, legal program coordinator for the North Carolina American Civil Liberties Union, said the organization is “looking at that case.” The ACLU has also sent a letter to Currituck school officials.

The Equal Access Act of 1984 says that school districts cannot restrict extracurricular clubs on the “basis of religious, political, philosophical or other speech content.” If a Bible study group is allowed, then a gay-straight alliance must also be permitted, Parker said.

“They are trying to get around the Equal Access law and we don’t think they can,” Parker said of the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education. “There are cases upon cases in which the courts have upheld the rights of students to form these clubs.”

Of course, the Currituck County School System does not include “sexual orientation” or “gender-identity” in its non-discrimination and non-harassment policy.

The policy they’ll be discussing on Monday, policy 4130 (Student-initiated, Noncurriculum-related Student Groups), is currently written as (with emphasis added):

Student-initiated, non-curriculum-related student groups shall be permitted to conduct voluntary meetings on school grounds during noninstructional time to the same extent permitted to school-sponsored student groups, regardless of the size of the group or the religious, political, philosophical or other content of the speech at the meetings, provided that the meetings do not materially and substantially interfere with the orderly conduct of the educational activities of the school. Such meetings shall be open to all students without regard to race, color, religion or national origin.

1. School employees shall not promote, lead or participate in the meetings of these noncurricular student groups; however, a school employee may be present at the meetings to maintain order and protect the general welfare of the students involved. School employees also may not influence the form or content of any prayer or other religious activity, nor require any person to participate in prayer or any other religious activity. In addition, non-school persons may not direct, conduct, control or regularly attend the activities of non curricular student groups.

2. No public funds may be expended on behalf of the student groups covered by this policy except for the incidental cost of providing space for the group meetings.

3. Students seeking to establish a voluntary noncurricular group shall seek approval from the principal.

4. The Superintendent shall develop regulations and procedures consistent with this policy and state and federal law.

5. This policy shall apply to secondary schools only.

The Currituck policy is almost exactly like that of the policy I had to deal with for four years in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School System and at RJ Reynolds High School, although theirs is substantially longer and more dense (See WS/FCS Policy 6146, Student-initiated, Non-school-sponsored, Extra-Class Activities).
I’ll give you one try to take a guess as to who were the first to speak out against the GSA. Come on… It isn’t too hard of a guess.

You got it! Local ministers and congregations! They think that sin shouldn’t be tolerated in the schools (watch the WVEC video for more on that B.S.)

Maybe someone should pass on the memo to the local religious folk: Currituck County High School isn’t a private religious institution and government can’t discriminate.

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