The West Bend School Board has rejected sponsoring a homosexual support club at its high schools, despite the threat of legal action in the case of such rejection. Approval of school sponsorship for the Gay-Straight Alliance at East and West high schools failed on a tied 3-3 vote at the board's Monday night meeting, which was attended by more than 100 supporters of the proposal.... According to the district's criteria for school-sponsored clubs, clubs must have a curricular tie, national or state affiliation, student appeal and a volunteer adviser. In GSA's application for school sponsorship, its purpose is listed as combating bullying and harassment and "to provide an emotionally and physically healing learning environment for people of all genders and sexual orientations." For a curriculum connection, the group listed six courses in which homosexual issues are discussed and studied.
Before the new policy, Fincke said student groups were informally recognized and that, as far as he could tell, every other group that had requested recognition by the school had received it... "It's true second-class citizenship," he said of the GSA's current non-club status since 2002, "and it's wrong."
This story was brought to my attention by Slog tipper Monica, who writes...
I am back in my wee Wisconsin hometown for a few days visiting my mom, and what do I see in the local paper? My former high school is refusing to sponsor a Gay-Straight Alliance—the denial of which actually proves how much it is needed, in my opinion. After listening to your show in April where you talked to the woman from the ACLU I figured all this fuckery needs is a little attention from you and your readers and a strongly worded letter from the ACLU and a reversal will be immediate. Please go after these bastards.
Another Slogger writes...
I graduated Class of '99 at West Bend East High School. You may remember West Bend, WI being in the news when there was a movement to ban books that portrayed gays in a positive or normal light. During my senior year, several of my friends, both gay and straight, founded FORUM, a gay-straight alliance at the school. Being straight, I didn't get involved because I didn't think it mattered to me. I regret this, because later my older brother came out, and I feel my involvement in this group might have shown him the support that he needed. This group has continued over the last 12 years to provide support to students who find themselves scared to come out in an ultra-conservative community.
Over this time, the West Bend School Board has fought to deny them unfunded co-curricular status. This group is not seeking tax-payer funding, though many opponents of the group are saying otherwise. On May 9th, there was a meeting where two attorneys representing the GSA pointed out to the board that they are denying the club status despite the fact that it has met all criteria that many of the other school's clubs have also met. Despite the fact that the illegalities of the boards actions were made apparent, three of the boards members still voted against the creation of this important support group. One of the board members, Dave Weigand, actually questioned how the group was going to turn kids gay to recruit them. The three members of the West Bend School Board, Dave Weigand, Tim Sepanski, and Randy Marquardt need to be made aware of the consequences of these actions. I would like to ask if you could help voice support for the GSA.
- Weigand, Stepanski, Marquardt
The three school board members who voted against allowing GSAs—which aren't "homosexual support groups" (sheesh)—are Board President Randy Marquardt, Vice President Tim Stepanski, and board members Dave Weigand. Click on their names to send them an email. More contact info for the West Bend School Board here. Anyone interested in explaining the difference between a GSA and a "homosexual support group" can contact the reporter, Amy Hetzner, by clicking here. A lawsuit is inevitable and I just forwarded this story to my buddies at the ACLU. They weren't aware of what was going on in West Bend... but they are now, West Bend.
Let's make enough noise that all the kids at West Bend's East and West high schools—gay, bi, trans, lesbian, straight—know we're out here, know we give a shit, and know we're getting their backs. Send emails to the school board members above. Be polite but firm, don't use profanity, and no threatening language (counterfuckingproductive). Forward this story to your friends on Facebook and ask them to help spread the word.
UPDATE: West Bend has a Facebook page. Share your thoughts.