East Pennsboro: No GSA Here!
East Pennsboro School District Votes Down GSA: Violates Federal Equal Access Law
HARRISBURG, PA – Defying federal law, the East Pennsboro Area School District voted down the formation of a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) at East Pennsboro Area High School yesterday evening. The Federal Equal Access Act of 1984 provides that schools districts must allow for the formation of a GSA just as any other non-curricular student club, or suspend all non-curricular activities entirely. Students at the high school have been meeting informally on LGBT issues for several years as a support group and were now vying to become an official student organization.
There are thousands of student “Gay Straight Alliances” in schools across the nation. They provide safe and supportive environments for students who may identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender (LGBT), or a straight ally. In numerous academic studies, the presence of a GSA is demonstrated to greatly improve the lives in the short and long term of LGBT students.
The Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition (PSEC), the statewide LGBT youth organization, exists as a coalition of GSAs at high schools and colleges throughout the state. PSEC believes there is no reason to deny the formation of a GSA at East Pennsboro Area High School other than bigotry. Funding is not an issue as there are already multiple non-curricular clubs at the school – and there are several supportive teachers willing to be sponsors of the organization.
PSEC Executive Director and student at the University of Pennsylvania Jason Landau Goodman said “this decision is simply illegal and discriminatory. The East Pennsboro Area School Board has sent a devastating message last night: LGBT students are not welcome here.” Further, Goodman stated that “East Pennsboro Area School District has a wealth of wonderful educators and administrators who want success for all their students – and allowing the formation of a GSA is critical to that mission.”
PSEC Co-Founder and Central PA leader Jason Fluke is a graduate of East Pennsboro Area High School. Jason, the former President of the GSA at Penn State – Harrisburg, reflected that “quite frankly, I am not surprised by my small town rejecting the club. It is a shame because this shows the rest of the nation that even in 2012 people in Central Pennsylvania need to be educated on diversity issues. I find it intriguing that the school board, those whom are entrusted to have the best interests of the students in mind, voted against the GSA to spite some of their most vulnerable youth.”
Recently, two GSAs were denied formation by their school boards in the Lehigh Valley – both decisions were later rescinded.
PSEC calls on the school board to reverse its decision at its next meeting, or the coalition will rally with others to consider legal action. PSEC is in the process of sending letters to the school board detailing the severity of their decision last night and urge them to reconsider.
The Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition is PA’s statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth organization working toward safe schools for all.