HIGH SCHOOL GAY-LESBIAN
From the Anchorage Daily News, 1996-NOV-26, 27 and 29; 1997-FEB-11
A club, the Gay/Straight Alliance, was formed on NOV-13 at the Dimond
High School for gays, lesbians and their straight supporters. Controversy
immediately broke out at the school. A varsity hockey player was caught tearing
down a club poster and had his playing rights suspended for one game. Controversy
spread to the community, largely by an "outpouring of vitriol"
by local radio talk show hosts. Finally, it spread to the next school board meeting.
Member Kathi Gillespie asked the board to review the types of clubs that are
allowed in the high schools. [She was apparently unaware that Federal legislation,
the Equal Access Act, prohibits schools from banning clubs because of their
religious, political or philosophical views. Schools can either have no clubs at
all, or any clubs that the students want.] Another board member, David Werdal,
wondered if the club could be banned under a school board policy that prohibits
clubs that distract students from learning.
21 people, all adults, signed up to speak at the meeting. Only a few were
allowed to speak in the time allotted. As expected, speeches ranged from
full support to outright condemnation. A parent, Gary Horton, said "
This particular club could stir things up to the detriment of the
entire community...This is displeasing to God. Listen with your hearts
to a real sensitive issue." A board member of Parents, Families and
Friends of Lesbians And Gays, Fred Hillman, recommended a 3 year old
Massachusetts state education policy: "They're making schools safe for
gay and lesbian students...Massachusetts is a pioneer in this area. Alaska,
a state of pioneers, should be leading this issue."
The Anchorage Daily News cane out in support of the club: "Take all
those adolescent pressures and apply them to a teenager who's having some
doubts whether he or she conforms to our culture's heterosexual ideal, and
you have the recipe for real psychological torment. It's no wonder gay teens
generally are considered to be a high risk for suicide...The federal "equal
access" law was passed to accommodate conservative religious groups that
wanted to host Bible club meetings on school property. Those Bible clubs have
a legitimate place in the extra-curricular school scene - and so do those who
want to promote understanding and tolerance for gay people. The Dimond High
Gay/Straight Alliance should be left to do it's work in peace."
Steve Williams, an Anchorage resident wrote a letter to the editor which
was titled "HATRED JUSTIFIES GAY CLUB". He writes in part: "The venom
that has been spewing forth on local radio stations concerning students who
wish to be associated with the Gay/Straight Alliance at Dimond High
School is positive proof of the absolute need of just such a club."
He expressed concern that some adults want to limit students' rights of
free assembly. After referring to the 30% of teen suicides by gays and
lesbians, he writes "This is fully indicative as to why this club should
not only be allowed, but encouraged. The school district should take a
pro-active role in helping the group to hang in there and stand strong
against this incredible meanness."
On 1997-FEB-10, the school board held a meeting at which the public could
give input. The topic was "should all clubs be allowed, or just
academic clubs? And if all clubs are OK, should students be required to get
permission from their parents to join them?" As expected, the only
club that received attention from the public was the Gay/Straight
Alliance. Frank Murphy, a youth pastor at a local church said: "Keep the
non-academic clubs open, but shut the Dimond club down." Alice
Lawrence, the head of a local charity, said "I'm appalled at what
the devil is trying to bring into the school system." Elliott Dennis and
Norman Schlitter, cochairman of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays and
Bisexuals said that support groups like the one under discussion are
important for young teens, and that they shouldn't have to get parental
permission to join. Dennis said: "If you pass this, some of those [gay]
students will continue to lead a lonely life."
The Anchorage School Board voted on the issue and decided to continue allowing
non-curriculum clubs, including the Dimond High Gay/Straight Alliance.
However, parental permission slips will have to be signed, and these
forms must include the club's statement of purpose.
This type of community debate is a common phenomenon. It demonstrates the
lack of respect that many people have for freedom of speech and freedom of
assembly. Unfortunately, the root cause of the debate is rarely addressed.
It is the division of the community between two mutually exclusive belief
systems concerning sexual orientation:
The former belief system was once generally accepted, but is now taught
only by conservative religious groups. The latter is the belief system
promoted by gays and lesbians and by North American researchers into
human sexuality who are not Evangelical Christians.
|The belief that
|homosexuality is a chosen behavior |
|a homosexual person can switch to heterosexual feelings and behavior
|that a person can be "recruited" into homosexuality |
|homosexuality is a practice condemned by God |
|homosexuality is unnatural |
|The belief that
|homosexual orientation is determined during pre-school childhood
|sexual orientations are not chosen |
|a person cannot change their sexual orientation |
|people cannot be recruited into a different orientation |
|that consensual, loving homosexual relationships are not mentioned in
the Bible |
|homosexuality is a natural, normal sexual orientation for a minority
of people |
Until a consensus can be reached on the nature of sexual orientation,
people in the community who believe that individuals can be recruited
into the "gay lifestyle" will continue to be terrified of gay/lesbian
support groups, of school lectures on sexual orientation, or of support
groups for sexual minorities. Until conservative religious groups change
their belief systems, the battle between homosexuals and the religious
right will continue.