Lawsuit threatened over Gay-Straight Alliance club in Franklin Co. school
After board members voted 5-4 not to support a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) club at Chambersburg Area Senior High School, two groups have threatened a lawsuit against the district if the board doesn’t change its vote by the end of the week.
The ACLU of Pennsylvania and Equality Pennsylvania sent a letter to the district’s leadership Tuesday, saying the board is in violation of the federal Equal Access Act.
“If they provide any additional support to other clubs in the school, which they do, then they have to present the same opportunities to anyone requesting that same chance,” said Ted Martin, executive director of Equality Pennsylvania. “The school board has had an awful long time to consider this. This is not a new issue. This is something they’ve been considering for several months.”
Board members voted on the issue two weeks ago. Among those who voted against allowing the club was Carl Barton. When reached Tuesday, he declined to speak on camera but told Fox43, “I thought there should be more public discussion. It has become controversial other places.”
The district superintendent referred Fox43 to the district’s attorney, who did not respond. Other board members contacted by Fox43 also did not return calls seeking comment.
Members of the club meet weekly but say by not being recognized formally by the district, they can’t fund raise or get the word out about the club through the morning announcements and other means. About a dozen kids are in the club, in addition to two faculty advisers, said Amber Fogelsonger, a senior.
Similar clubs exist across the country and in other parts of Franklin County. Students who consider themselves part of the LGBT community or wish to support people who are part of the community gather to talk about various issues, including bullying.
“We’re a non-bullying club. And, we don’t like to judge each other. We’re very open. All of us have a pretty close bond, actually, where we know we can go to one another and talk, even if it’s outside the club,” said Fogelsonger.
Since the board’s vote, a alumnus of Chambersburg Area Senior High School started a petition on change.org seeking to get at least one board member to change votes.
“Bullying is pretty bad within the school. Whether or not it’s reported, that’s a different story. I know a lot of students fear retribution from other students,” said Thomas McCalmont, whose petition has received over 5,000 signatures.
The school board is scheduled to meet Wednesday evening. The superintendent said he does not expect the issue to be taken up.