EDITORIALS

Club approval required open mind

Washington
Times-Reporter editorial board

At its March 9 meeting, the Washington Community High School Board of Education voted to approve the bylaws of two new student organizations.

The first, the Gay-Straight Alliance, caused concern among some board members, causing them to table approval two previous times.

The reason given was that board members wanted time to go through the bylaws more thoroughly.

And, despite concerns expressed by board president Jim Gerkin and adamant refusal to vote “yes” by board member Tim Custis, the GSA is now an officially acknowledged club at WCHS.

One of those concerns was that the wording in the club’s purpose may be interpreted that members would attempt to convert others.

Club president Amanda DeVore, a senior, and vice president Chris Fehr, a senior, reassured the board this was not the purpose of the club.

Most experts agree that it is not possible to “convert” a straight person into being gay.

For those who do not know, the Gay-Straight Alliance is not some name a student came up with to inflame the populace.

It comes from a nationally recognized organization whose stated purpose is to “cover sexual orientation education and equality to help preserve the integrity of all human rights for all human beings and to protect current and future generations of family members.”

According to its Web site, www.gaystraightalliance.org, gay people often know their orientation during the first 10 years of life, making them vulnerable to discrimination at a very early age.

The sole purpose of Washington’s group, according to DeVore and Fehr, is to provide a safe haven for the school’s gay and transsexual population — to let them know they are not alone and do not have to put up with abuse.

This is a tremendous undertaking despite the tolerant environment WCHS faculty and administration attempt to foster.

No matter how much education there is, there will most likely be someone who would prefer to operate from a position of ignorance and intolerance.

On the flip side, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes squeaked through without much comment.

Why is that?

Inviting a religious organization into the school could also bring about criticism from those who do not believe it belongs in the school.

But, in essence, it does.

As a society, we want to teach the younger generation acceptance and tolerance of others’ beliefs, as long as they do not promote actual harmful behavior, such as violence against themselves or others, underage drinking and drugs.

Both of these new clubs do not promote reckless behavior. They both state in their bylaws that they promote acceptance.

One of the main reasons teens will commit suicide is because of feelings of isolation and being bullied.

They believe there is no other way out.

School organizations provide a support network, a peer group where students are accepted for the person they are inside, where it counts.

By denying students a safe haven, a place where they are accepted,w teaches them the opposite. It teaches them to be intolerant of others. And there is enough of that in the world already.

We commend the high school for its forward thinking and willingness to provide all students with a sense of belonging.

It is allowing students peer groups where they feel safe and accepted, while also protecting the district by exercising administrative guidance.