GSA club at Lafayette High draws crowd to board meeting

Published 4:48 pm Wednesday, February 7, 2024

The Lafayette County School District board room was crowded Tuesday night for its regular monthly meeting after the news of a group of students forming a Gay-Straight Alliance club made the rounds on social media.

Flyers announcing an interest meeting on Wednesday morning for the GSA were put up around the high school and in most cases, were torn down shortly after. Some students even posted photos on Snapchat of them ripping up the posters.

Those photos caught the attention of parents who are against the GSA and several rallied on their own social media accounts for like-minded parents and community members to attend the board meeting on Tuesday to express their dissent.

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Those comments then caught the attention of other parents and community members who called out to others to support the students’ quest to form the GSA and also rallied to have people attend the board meeting.

According to the flyer, the GSA’s purpose is to unite gay and straight students to “create a safe and supportive environment that celebrates diversity and togetherness.”

About 50 or so people filed into the board room. The GSA was not on the agenda; however, the board allowed eight people to speak at the meeting. Four speakers asked the board to deny the students’ request to form and hold the club before school hours and four speakers were in support of the club.

Lafayette County resident Marie Thompson said school is a place for academics and not to discuss gender issues. She said a GSA would promote division.

“If a student is gay, then that’s his or her choice, but no one has the right to try to influence other students,” she told the board.

Angie Brummett said she didn’t believe it was appropriate for students to be divided by their sexuality.

“If we want to have Biblical studies, then the students can do that and study what the Bible says about having differences of how you feel,” she said.

Angela Atkins, a parent of two Lafayette students, said the need for a GSA became obvious when the students ripped down the flyers and posted the photos on social media.

“Can you imagine how those students felt?” she said to the board. “Don’t you think they need a place where they know that they have a friend, gay, straight, or whatever, that they know that they can be accepted? … This is a student organization run by students for students and we need to butt out of it.”

Student Loki Francis Swain, co-founder of the GSA, said the school was only providing the group a place to meet.

“Studies have shown that all students in schools with GSAs are less likely to be discriminated against, have lower odds of suicidal thoughts and have fewer suicide attempts regardless of whether they are gay or straight.”

The federal Equal Access Act requires that schools must treat all clubs equally.

It applies only to schools that allow students to form groups not specifically linked to the curriculum. Moreover, the act applies only to groups that meet during non-instructional times and under the same terms that existing noncurricular clubs function.

The board took no action on the matter during the meeting.