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Thu Feb 28, 2013, 03:05 PM

GSA? No Way In PA!: Keystone State School District Risks Lawsuit Over Refusal To Permit Equal-Access

GSA? No Way In PA!: Keystone State School District Risks Lawsuit Over Refusal To Permit Equal-Access Club

Source:
Wall of Separation
by Simon Brown
Feb 28, 2013

Most government bodies do everything in their power to avoid lawsuits, but some do things so foolish that they seem to be begging someone to sue them. One entity that apparently welcomes the prospect of a long and costly legal battle is the governing board of the Chambersburg Area School District in Pennsylvania.

Recently, the board voted 5-4 not to allow a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) club at Chambersburg Area Senior High School. A news report on the vote did not include any comments from the five who voted against the club, but the story did make one very important point: The 1984 Federal Equal Access Act requires secondary schools to allow a variety of student-run religious and non-religious voluntary clubs that meet during “non-instructional” time. This law was later upheld by the Supreme Court (emphasis added).

And the board cannot plead ignorance, here. Before the vote Stephanie Metz, an educator in nearby Shippensburg who is a Chambersburg resident, warned the board of the consequences that could come from banning a GSA. She said, according to the Chambersburg Public Opinion, that she doesn’t want her tax dollars to be used on a court case because the Constitution allows equal opportunity when it comes to student club formation.

At least one board member, Kim Amsley-Camp, who voted to allow the club, seems to be well aware of what’s at stake here. Public Opinion reported that Amsley-Camp said prior to the vote that she contacted the Pennsylvania Association of School Boards about the GSA club and was informed that the district has to allow the club under the Equal Access Act.

https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/gsa-no-way-in-pa-keystone-state-school-district-risks-lawsuit-over-refusal


I'm posting this in our Religion Group because it is a direct example of an observation often made here: How are Christian groups that press for prayer, or Christian clubs, etc., in public schools going to react when a group they disapprove of wants to be included in the roster of participants (that was awkwardly worded, sorry....)

As the AU blog observes:
... the school has the option to allow no clubs at all. It seems that the board wouldn’t care much for that plan, since Chambersburg Area Senior High School has not one, but two Christian clubs open to students.

.........

It’s ironic that when Congress was debating the Equal Access Act, conservatives were the ones really pushing for the law. They were eager to see students form Christian clubs, and it’s incredible that they didn’t realize the law makes it easier for everyone to create a club – including those the Religious Right finds offensive.


Well, there ya go...

Certainly not the first example, and certainly not destined to be the last.

This is whack-a-mole for high stakes.


EDIT: Sorry for all the edits; my formatting OCD seems to be on a tear today...

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Reply GSA? No Way In PA!: Keystone State School District Risks Lawsuit Over Refusal To Permit Equal-Access (Original post)
Adsos Letter Feb 2013 OP
cbayer Feb 2013 #1
Adsos Letter Feb 2013 #2
cbayer Feb 2013 #3
Adsos Letter Feb 2013 #5
Adsos Letter Feb 2013 #4
cbayer Feb 2013 #6
Freddie Feb 2013 #7
Adsos Letter Feb 2013 #8

Response to Adsos Letter (Original post)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 03:09 PM

1. Outright bigotry and intolerance, that's all it is and

they won't stand a chance in court, imo.

At least the vote was close and hopefully these jerks are elected and can be unseated.

It's like the states that passed on funding to religiously run charter schools but never stopped to consider that it would apply to all religions. They actually were stunned to discover this.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #1)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 03:16 PM

2. Yup. The article noted that the five dissenting board members

gave no reason for their dissent. I hope they publicly state their reason at some point, so that their bigotry and disregard for law can be made plain for what it is.

EDIT: It appears that the original report did not include any statements by the dissenting members. I don't know if they actually verbalized their reasons, or not.

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Response to Adsos Letter (Reply #2)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 03:34 PM

3. In looking at other articles, I found that one board member

said the club was redundant because there was already a "multi-cultural" group.

Another states that the charter for the club stated it would pick it's own advisors (taken from the national GSA organization) and the board wanted final approval of advisors.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #3)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 03:43 PM

5. Yes, I just saw the part about board approval of advisors, and placed it in post #4...

MULTI-CULTURAL?!!!

I missed that one! indeed...

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Response to cbayer (Reply #1)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 03:41 PM

4. Apparently this is being denied on a technicality

According to an opinion piece in Public Opinion :

Exploitation of a technicality to reject a high school Gay Straight Alliance will allow Chambersburg's school board to show gay students how adults cope with the pressure that comes from being different from their peers.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender high school students do not choose to subject themselves to ridicule and bullying at a formative age. But the adults who run Chambersburg Area School District could have chosen to work around the policy detail they cited to suppress a social refuge for an oppressed and isolated segment of their student body.

The Gay Straight Alliance Club at Chambersburg Area Senior High School proposed a constitution based on a template from a national GSA organization, under which the club would select its faculty adviser. (This is important because an opposed administration could undermine such a club with its choice of an adult adviser.) (emphasis added) The school board based its denial on district policy that requires administration to select student club advisers, subject to approval by the school board.

http://www.publicopiniononline.com/opinion/ci_22687972/casd-must-reconsider-denial-support-club-gays


We'll see if they make an exception to avoid a lawsuit. This raises something of a dilemma, I think. Does the potential for undue pressure/control by a faculty adviser subject to board approval override the school district policy?

I wish rug were around to weigh in, but he seems to be absent. I hope it's just because he's busy working.

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Response to Adsos Letter (Reply #4)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 03:45 PM

6. I've been wondering what happened to rug as well.

He hasn't posted in over 2 weeks, which is so unlike him.

Anyway, it's really shameful that they did this after receiving significant testimony about bullying and increased suicide rates. Thank goodness for the internet, which now has them on full display.

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Response to Adsos Letter (Original post)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 04:14 PM

7. I have family in that part of the state

It's definitely the Alabama part of PA, not far from Dover, the town that wanted to teach "intelligent design" a few years ago.

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Response to Freddie (Reply #7)

Thu Feb 28, 2013, 04:16 PM

8. Thank you for the personal insight.

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