The Rankin County School Board was recently prompted to develop a policy change due to a potential student-led group at Brandon High School — essentially, a student asked a teacher to sponsor a student-led, gay-straight alliance group. There are such groups in schools all over the country, but the administration for this school district, in particular superintendent Lynn Weathersby, wanted to not only ax this group, but all such groups in the future.
At a school board meeting, Weathersby was reported to have said, "I talked to [board attorney] Freddie [Harrell] and several administrators about what we could legally do to limit organizations like that on campus that we don't want to endorse and don't want."
Harrell himself mentioned that he feared such groups would violate school policies that are already in place, such as abstinence-only sex education.
And here's where I start to see red. A group like this is meant to support LGBT kids and is supposed to be a place where they can feel safe and accepted. An organization like this is also where LGBT and straight folks can come together to work on important, serious issues, like anti-LGBT bullying and discrimination, which are real problems that can have disastrous consequences on young people.
Harrell's reasoning is beyond insulting as well. A "gay club" wouldn't be a school-sponsored sex club and is not meant to promote gay porn or hookups. We should also note that gay people don't have more sex than heterosexual people do. And just because a group focuses on sexual orientation, it doesn't mean the group is about having sex — just like a gay or transgender adult isn't more likely to be a pedophile than someone who is heterosexual (I'm looking at you, Michelle Duggar).
Human Rights Campaign Mississippi state director Rob Hill has requested the school board reverse its decision. "This policy sends a harmful message to LGBT students in Rankin County that they are not welcomed within their classrooms, at school functions or on the bus," he said in a statement. "The board's actions tell LGBT students that they should be ashamed of who they are and that their lives are valued less than their peers."
Groups dedicated to providing a safe school environment should always be allowed, and fortunately, federal law is on the students' side. Forget the ridiculous myths that surround gay people — these kids are not looking to fornicate on school grounds or turn the other kids gay. Change the policy, Rankin County School District. Embrace your students, and help them support one another in a safe school environment.
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