Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Principal in MY state gets it right and wrong

It is very rare that my state of South Carolina get involved in the so-called cultural wars over lgbt rights.

But when it does, look out:

The Irmo High School Principal's announced resignation over a controversial student group is already drawing national attention.

Principal Eddie Walker told WIS News 10 his resignation won't take effect until June, 2009 - the end of the 2008-2009 school year.

Walker says it comes after he was asked to allow the creation of a Gay-Straight Alliance club at the school.

. . ."The formation of this club conflicts with my professional beliefs in that we do not have other clubs at Irmo High school based on sexual orientation, sexual preference, or sexual activity. In fact our sex education curriculum is abstinence based. I feel the formation of a Gay/Straight Alliance Club at Irmo High school implies that students joining the club will have chosen to or will choose to engage in sexual activity with members of the same sex, opposite sex, or members of both sexes.

My decision to resign is a personal choice based on my professional beliefs and religious convictions. I have prayed about the decision for a period of time and I have a peace about it. I would ask that you respect my choice as I respect your choice to disagree with me on this issue. I bear no malice towards anyone involved."

Now before the anti-gay industry zeroes in with their lies in order to make Mr. Walker seem like a martyr (and they will), please bear in mind that he choose to resign.

Mr. Walker was not fired nor was he threatened with termination. He made a personal choice to resign.

To his credit, I think Mr. Walker took the right road. He realized that legally, he could not oppose a GSA so he decided to bow out, rather than mandate some divine right to go above his employer (are you paying attention, Crystal Dixon).

Having said that, I have a huge problem with his incorrect assertions about GSAs.

I dare anyone to show me proof that GSAs encourage sexual activity. There has never been any proof of this assertion because it is a false notion created by the anti-gay industry designed to scare ignorant people.

GSAs exist so that lgbt teenagers can meet and interact with others like themselves. GSAs exist so that lgbt teenagers do not feel so isolated in a school environment, which at times can be homophobic.

I never came out while I was in school, but I had a front row seat to the daily degradation of someone I loved dearly just because he was gay.

He was bullied and picked on. With no support system to back him up, it was difficult for him to complete high school. Subsequently, he did not.

You see, that is what GSAs were created to stop. They give our lgbt children a support system and self-esteem; two qualities that are very important in completing not only high school but getting through life.

And more importantly, when schools fight the formation of GSAs, they usually find themselves on the losing end.

This is because of the Equal Access Act:

. . . the Equal Access Act provides that if a school permits students to organize clubs, then school officials cannot prevent a club from organizing based upon the subject matter addressed by the club. Although the Equal Access Act does not specifically address gay clubs, the law applies to students who want to form a Gay-Straight Alliance or other gay-rights club. Students must, of course, comply with their school's rules relating to forming clubs, such as application requirements and procurement of faculty sponsors. In other words, students who want to form a gay-rights club must follow the same rules as students who form a chess club.

It would seem to me that if these clubs were about sex, then the courts would be on the side of the schools.

So while I admire Mr. Walker's adherence to his personal beliefs and his decision to not allow those beliefs to influence his job, I think he really needs to educate himself.

Has he talked to his lgbt students? It always amazes me that when discussions regarding GSAs take place, very few people pay attention to what the students most involved have to say.

The stakes are too high here to make unfair assertions.

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