Students and faculty in the Waynesboro school district were surprised by some community members’ resistance to the formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) in the high school. At a January board meeting, a few residents who said they consider homosexuality a sin said the proposal of the club stirred up issues of morality for them.
The students who want to start the GSA have been preparing since September and have written club bylaws, found a faculty adviser, and identified a number of other students who want to join. One of the students asking for the club explained that it was inspired by Rachel’s Challenge, a program in memory of a victim of the Columbine High School massacre that visited the school recently. The program hopes to inspire “a chain reaction” of compassion, and the students describe their proposed GSA as furthering that goal by promoting tolerance and providing a safe and supportive environment for all students.
At the first school board meeting in January, students received positive feedback when a recently retired staff member asked whether the GSA might facilitate safe spaces and events for students struggling with gender issues. The students on hand responded that the GSA could definitely handle that and took the question as an acknowledgement of the need for such a club.
In contrast, at the second board meeting in January there were many people lined up to share their points of view on the formation of a GSA. One resident told the board, “The Bible is my authority on all things and I feel that homosexuality is sinful. It goes against God’s word...Having this club is condoning homosexuality as an ok thing—something that God says very clearly is very wrong.”
The school board president, however, supported the students. “Every kid should have a place they feel safe, accepted and comfortable in. These children are a part of our community and we should accept these kids as part of our community,” she said. She also warned that “federal funding can be withheld from the district if we don’t follow the federal Equal Access Act and allow this club to form. Case law shows that we won’t win a case against that.” The Equal Access Act mandates that districts provide the same access to resources for all student groups.
Also present at the board meeting was the principal of a neighboring high school with a GSA. The principal of the neighboring Shippensburg Area Senior High School attended the board meeting and told board members that the GSA was a positive addition to his school “We are a public school and therefore, we accept all students and that is our responsibility as a public school,” he said.
The school board has another discussion planned in February. SIECUS will continue monitoring this controversy.
 Jennifer Fitch, “Gay-Straight Alliance flap stuns students,” The Herald-Mail, 25 January 2009, accessed on 26 January 2009 < http://www.herald-mail.com/?cmd=displaystory&story_id=215311&format=html>.
 Miller, “Alliance for gay students tabled.”