Wednesday morning, prior to the start of school, approximately five Sycamore High School students attended the first GSA – Gay Straight Alliance Club meeting. Sycamore is the second school in Cheatham County to facilitate an organized club for youth identifying with the LGBT – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community. Harpeth High School established a LGBT club in the spring of 2016.
The very first GSA was started at Concord Academy by Kevin Jennings in 1988. Furthering his agenda to drive acceptance of the LGBT community, in 1994, he established GLSEN – Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. Under the Obama Administration, Jennings was appointed Assistant Deputy for the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, he further implemented programs while serving at this capacity to focus on populations at risk for bullying, harassment and discrimination including LGBT Youth, American Indians, Alaska Natives and Military/Veterans. GSA is part of the GLSEN initiative he started in 1994 and further implemented serving under the Obama Administration. –Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevin_Jennings.
today GLSEN is the largest advocacy group focused on initiating awareness and acceptance by educating students in grades K-12 on gender identity and sexual orientation in an effort to end targeted discrimination, harassment and bullying. currently an estimated 4,000 gsa clubs are registered under GLSEN nationwide. –Glsen, http://www.glsen.org.
Cheatham News spoke with several parents of students at Sycamore High School who were unaware there were any GSA or LGBT Clubs in Cheatham County Schools. Parents, as well as students, expressed concerns, worrying a GSA Club in a small rural community could instigate bullying and harassment for the LGBT youth, increasing discrimination against students and supporters of the club.
Parents supportive of the program were concerned about how disciplinary action would be upheld for students bullying or harassing GSA – Gay Straight Alliance Club members or supporters. Parental support of the Gay Straight Alliance Club was shown from parents attentive to the LGBT youth and parents opposing the LGBT lifestyle. Many wanted to know why parents weren’t given any notification about the club, finding out about the club from their child, social media or friends questioned the transparency of the school district. Another segment of parents were concerned their child could join or be a part of the club without their knowledge, violating family beliefs. Opinions amongst parents and students are divided on whether or not GSA should be maintained, dismantled or have been sponsored at all within Cheatham County Schools.
Although Jennings program offers an avenue for the LGBT community to connect, opposition to the networks affiliated school organized club GSA is still prominent in many communities. Student(s) attending and/or organizing the GSA Club at Sycamore met resistance by their peers. Sycamore students vocalized opposition to the club and petitions were passed around for students to sign in an effort to try and get the club dismantled. Posters and signs hung in the hallways announcing when and where the club would meet were torn down, ripped up and thrown away. There were rumors students were considering sitting out of class, lining the hallways, in protest of the club but at this time there have not been any protest to the club in this manner.
The rise of acceptance of gender equality, identity and sexual orientation has driven youth across America to take a stand, connect with others and seek acceptance. While acceptance is increasing in society, some communities have taken a stand against GSA Clubs, stating sexual orientation should not be taught or organizations hosting clubs for LGBT youth allowed. According to Wikipedia GSA Clubs cannot be banned if other non-curricular student clubs are allowed to exist in the schools.
“The Federal Equal Access Act and the First Amendment of the US Constitution establish the requirement of equal treatment for all non-curriculum related clubs regardless of the content of speech at the club meetings.” GLsen, http://www.glsen.org Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gay%E2%80%93straight_alliance
Currently there are an estimated 4,000 schools registered with GLSEN. Tennessee GLSEN Chapter is based out of East Tennessee. To learn more about GSA or the East Tennessee Chapter visit http://www.glsen.org/chapters/easttn/ourchapter.
Cheatham News (c) 2017