Gay-Straight Alliance Updates: Chambersburg, Lake County & Manitoba

Manitoba Map
Manitoba, pictured here in red, may require all public and “funded independent” schools to allow gay-straight alliances

At the time of this post, Thomas McCalmont’s petition to members of the school board in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, has received 6,074 on-line signatures. The petition asks the board members to support students’ efforts to form a gay-straight alliance (GSA) at the local high school. As I’ve reported in other posts, the school board recently voted 5-4 to reject the students’ application for the club. The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and Equality Pennsylvania then sent a demand letter to the school, making it clear that they will file suit on the students’ behalf if the school board does not change course. The organizations have given the board an extension of time—until this coming Wednesday—to respond to the demand letter. A couple of anti-LGBT advocacy groups have also tried to influence the board’s decision.

Meanwhile, in Lake County, Florida, students at Carver Middle School will not be able to form a gay-straight alliance as quickly as many had hoped. The school board in Lake County had considered banning all extracurricular clubs to avoid its legal obligation to allow the GSA to meet; the board then backed away from that radical step at a recent meeting, leading many to assume that there were no further obstacles to the GSA’s formation. But the school board must now “finalize” its new rule allowing extracurricular clubs at another meeting, which isn’t scheduled to take place until April 22.

“That’s a long time,” said Bayli Silberstein, an eighth grader leading efforts to form the club. The delay is yet another infringement of the students’ rights under the federal Equal Access Act and the First Amendment.

A different sort of GSA controversy continues to unfold in Manitoba, Canada, where some religious groups are opposing a bill that would require all public and “funded independent” schools in the province to allow students to form GSAs. “Funded independent” schools receive half their funding from the government; most of them are faith-based. Click here for a post from last fall about a similar controversy in Ontario, Canada.


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