July 22, 2016 Radio Commentary

14 Years of GSAs

Radio Commentary, 90.7, 91.7 New Life FM, July 22, 2016 – By Sue Ella Deadwyler

Fourteen years ago Senator Richard Marable introduced S.B. 426 so parents could be notified of clubs and activities available for students to join at school. Opponents of the bill included Georgia Equality, Georgia Rural Urban Summit, Enlight Atlanta, the ACLU and the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN).

The bill did three things: (a) local boards of education were to develop policies to notify parents or guardians of clubs and activities available to students. (b) It would have provided an opportunity for parents to WITHHOLD permission to join, (c) but it did not REQUIRE parental permission for students to join. The focus of the bill was to keep parents in-the-loop about school activities available to their children.

Opponents brought in a Lakeside High School junior to speak against the bill when it was heard in the Senate Education committee. The student was president of Lakeside’s Gay Straight Alliance club. Despite opposition, S.B. 426 passed out of committee, but it died without further action.

When the bill was introduced, eleven Georgia counties had GSA clubs in high schools – six were school-certified and five were not certified. Now, Georgia has almost four dozen GSA clubs, and it’s important that parents know their focus.As their title suggests, GSA clubs have mixed memberships – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual (LGBT) and straight students – that mainstream and promote homosexuality through club meetings, and socials, as well as school and community activities.

Holliston High School’s GSA in Massachusetts observed Harmony Week for five days. On Day One students received rainbow ribbons in homeroom and wore them all day; Day Two students emphasized LGBT rights with a day of silence, and declared their homosexuality with a “coming out” party after school; students learned about hate crimes another day and met after school to decorate the GSA bulletin board; they watched an HBO film about lesbian women after school on Day Four; and Day Five ended with three drama class performances of the play “Acceptance.”

Georgia finally passed a bill requiring school hand books to include a list and describe the missions of school clubs and activities. Parents who don’t have that list might ask for it at their child’s school. But regardless of what’s on the list, parental consent is NOT required for students to join any school club or activity.

For Georgia Insight I’m Sue Ella Deadwyler, your Capitol correspondent.