Now, for something completely different, read the article below, in which two OALC men are quoted.
Gay alliance can't be denied, B.G. warned
Sunday, January 15, 2006
By MARGARET ELLIS for the Columbian
If students want one, there's nothing the Battle Ground School Board can do to keep a Gay-Straight Alliance club out of Battle Ground High School.
In an hourlong workshop Jan. 10, Attorney Bill Coats told the board it couldn't refuse a club based on content the board doesn't like.
"If you start treating groups differently based on what they say, you run afoul of the First Amendment," Coats said.
The issue came up before winter break when some students proposed the Gay-Straight Alliance.
The Associated Student Body group is taking input from students and will vote on the club Tuesday. The board said it would wait for that vote before discussing the issue further.
Board member Fred Striker said he feels the board is in a tough spot over the issue. The board can't refuse the club, but "probably close to the majority of the community wouldn't agree" with allowing the club, he said.
Most folks in the audience were employees of the school board or not willing to discuss their feelings about the issue, but one father of two students at Battle Ground High School said he's against the idea.
"I just think trying to promote the agenda of homosexuality is a sin," said Curt Massie. He said his children agree.
If a Gay-Straight Alliance is formed at Battle Ground High School, it won't be the first such group in the area. Evergreen, Mountain View and Heritage high schools each have a group that supports gay students, said Carol Fenstermacher, spokeswoman for Evergreen Public Schools.
Heritage High School has a student-run club, as well as a Gay-Straight Alliance support group that was started five years ago and is led by Tom Baldwin, a guidance counselor.
"It has never been controversial," he said. "We don't promote any agenda, we're not trying to turn anybody into being gay, we're just out to help students who feel maligned," he said.
The group focuses on keeping students safe and free from harassment, he said.
"There are times that schools can seem an unfriendly place to sexual minority youth," he said.
The Vancouver School District has had clubs similar to the Gay-Straight Alliance, but the groups aren't always active, said VSD spokeswoman Kris Sork. The clubs haven't been controversial, she said.
While school administration can't bar a club because officials disagree with it, schools can prohibit a club that would be illegal otherwise, or would interfere with the "orderly conduct of educational activities."
In addition, no one can be compelled to join or attend meetings, Coats said.
The workshop wasn't a public hearing, but Neal Blomquist, one 25 or so in the audience, did ask whether prohibiting all student clubs would give the board the right to eliminate the Gay-Straight Alliance as well, "if that has to be done as a last resort."
"I know of no high school in the U.S. that has successfully done that," Coats said.
He said some schools have tried and been sued as a result.
"If you go that route," he told the board, "you're making yourselves a lightning rod for various groups."
In addition, Coats cautioned, eliminating all student groups would substantially change how schools function in the community.
"It would take a material change in how you view your schools," he said.
Well, ahem. Coats didn't know to whom he was speaking. Blomquist and Massie belong to a group that (in my experience) would have no problem denying others the First Amendment rights they cherish for themselves. But that attitude is destined for the dustbin of history. Today in Washington State, lawmakers passed a gay civil rights measure that has failed for the past 30 years. The measure adds "sexual orientation" to a state law that bans discrimination in housing, employment and insurance, making Washington the 17th state passing such laws covering gays and lesbians.