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Group Seeks to Ban All GSAs


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Ga. ?parental permission? bill exported

Anti-gay group seeks similar legislation in five southern states

By DYANA BAGBY, Southen Voice

A Washington, D.C. based organization is using Georgia?s parental permission law as a template to get similar legislation passed in five southern states in its attempts to ban gay-straight alliance clubs.

The Family Policy Network is currently seeking lawmakers to propose legislation mandating parental permission for students to join any non-academic clubs such as GSAs in North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama and Texas.

?The primary reason we believe legislation is necessary is because educators are in lock-step with the liberal social agenda, such as abortion and the homosexual agenda,? said Joe Glover, president of FPN.

?We need to guard the fox that?s in the hen house. Schools want to hide the fact they are involved in promoting deviant lifestyles,? he added.

FPN?s campaign, launched this month, is a direct result of a July 14 federal court ruling requiring White County High School in Cleveland, Ga., to provide space for a gay-straight alliance to meet on campus.

The ACLU sued the Georgia school district, citing the federal Equal Access Act, after the White County high school principal in 2005 banned all non-curricular clubs at the school to keep out the GSA, named Peers Rising in Diverse Education, or PRIDE.

?Georgia taught us something because the federal court wouldn?t ban the club,? Glover said. ?We?ve been looking for three years at crafting legislation to give parents awareness of these clubs and to allow parents to prevent participation if they so choose. It?s a no-brainer ? why not give parents this information??

Glover acknowledged the campaign has just gotten underway and no lawmakers have yet signed on to sponsoring such bills, but said the group plans to have people on board when state legislative sessions begin in January.

?Opt out? vs. ?opt in?

The controversy over the White County GSA prompted conservative Georgia lawmakers to propose a parental permission bill, the first such bill to win approval in the nation, according to officials with the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network.

Sen. Nancy Schaefer (R-Turnerville) proposed the original legislation to require parents to give permission for a student to join any school club. Gay rights activists argued the bill was simply an attempt to keep GSAs out of high schools, noting that students who are afraid to be open about their sexual orientation with their parents would not ask for permission to join the clubs.

The Georgia General Assembly eventually approved a watered down version of Schaefer?s bill that requires all public schools to inform parents and guardians about what extracurricular clubs are available at their child?s school. If a parent or guardian deems a club unsuitable for their child, they can then ?opt out? the student from that club by signing a form and filing it with school officials.

Glover said FPN?s proposed legislation would require an ?opt in? requirement that would dictate parents and guardians give permission before a student can join any non-academic club.

FPN?s campaign is part of a movement to take back schools from what it deems as the ?infiltration of homosexual activists in schools,? Glover said.

?Kids go to school to learn how to read, write and about history ? and are not sent to pursue alternative, sexual lifestyles,? he said.

Alex Mason, a policy analyst with FPN, told the Christian news organization Agape Press in an Aug. 23 story that FPN?s proposed legislation would likely cause GSA club participation to decrease.

FPN has ties to the virulently anti-gay American Family Association, led by Donald Wildmon, as well as anti-gay activist Peter LaBarbera, who is listed as a national adviser on FPN?s website.

Courts clear?

Glover said because courts are ?not consistent? when it comes to GSAs, passing state laws is the best way to ensure parents understand such clubs exist.

But Eliza Byard, deputy executive director of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, said the courts are ?very clear? on the issue of school clubs, including GSAs, because of the federal Equal Access Act passed by Congress in 1984.

The law, originally passed to protect religious clubs in public schools, states in part: ?It shall be unlawful for any public secondary school ? to deny equal access or a fair opportunity to, or discriminate against, any students who wish to conduct a meeting within that limited open forum on the basis of the religious, political, philosophical, or other content of the speech at such meetings.?

?There is no ambiguity there,? Byard said. ?It is disingenuous for FPN to claim there is a lack of clarity.?

Groups such as FPN that characterize GSAs as clubs devoted to sex are also part of the problem, she added.

?There are two really unfortunate things occurring here ? those who are concerned about GSAs are mis-characterizing what the clubs actually are ? they are certainly not the lurid gatherings they want to characterize them as,? she said. ?There is very poisonous misinformation about these clubs out there about these GSA clubs and the gay and lesbian life. Parents deserve a clear picture and not the misinformation groups like the Family Policy Network like to give.?

GSAs contribute to a better school climate, are created and run by students, and are constructive in helping students do better in school, Byard said.

Passing legislation such as the Georgia bill and that proposed by FPN is not effective in getting parents involved in their students? school life as anti-GSA advocates claim, Byard added.

?Passing such laws is intended to single out one group of people. Requiring parents to fill out a form forced on them by state legislators is not the most humane way for parents to be involved,? she said.

? 2006 | A Window Media Publication

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