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Local News
03/27/13

Gay-Straight Alliance Club Approved

After a long fight, the Chambersburg School Board Wednesday approved 5-4 the Gay-Straight Alliance Club. Members denied the club 5-4 at a previous meeting. they took that decision back and voted again, this time approving the club.

“I’m gay and I was in ninth grade when I came out. So I didn’t have this kind of club to help me,” said Vice President of the Gay-Straight Alliance Club Tiffany Bechtel.  She hopes her experience, and the acceptance of the Gay-Straight Alliance Club will help others.”I have been trying so hard to get this approved.”

“Even if it’s just family problems whatever the situation, coming out or not being sure about who you are. It just means we have an approved safe haven where people can come to. They don’t have to be afraid. They can just come to us and it will be ok,” said President of the Gay-Straight Alliance Club Amber Fogelsonger.

Now happiness is setting in for members. After a long struggle their club is officially part of Chambersburg High School, after the school board voted 5 to 4 to approve it.  “This is actually our third time voting so I didn’t think that we would get approved. They say the third time is the charm,” said Fogelsonger. “It’s been hard getting not approved, so to finally have us approved is like a weight lifted off our shoulders.”

The decision has been years in the making, and it didn’t come easy. “I have been trying to do it since sophomore year,” said Fogelsonger.

Board members previously voted the club down. One reason: they say the already existing Culture Club can serve the same purpose and mission as the Gay-Straight Alliance Club. After the ACLU and Equality Pennsylvania threatened to sue, board members took another look. Board member Carl Barton said after investigation he decided the two clubs may serve the same purpose, but they serve two separate groups. He voted in favor of the club.

The Gay-Straight Alliance Club meets every Wednesday.

The Chambersburg School Board voted tonight in favor of allowing the Gay-Straight Alliance Club. The board approved the club in a 5-4 vote. Fox43′s Melissa Nardo will have more tonight at 10 and 11 p.m.

Members of the Chambersburg School Board are expected to vote Wednesday evening at their regularly scheduled meeting, whether or not to allow students to form a Gay Straight Alliance Club A few weeks ago board members voted five to four not to allow the club. The ACLU and Equality Pennsylvania are threatening to sue. They say the school is violating the Federal Equal Access Act by not providing the same opportunities they give other clubs.

“I think that people need to understand that when you violate the law  like this, that’s what happens. And simply put these students deserve
the right to create a GSA and that’s what we’re fighting for. I think they’ve actually heard what is being discussed and they were open to the discussion, so that is definitely a good thing,” said Ted Martin,
Executive Director for Equality Pennsylvania.

The group has over a dozen student members and two faculty advisers.

Members want to be recognized by the school so the can fund raise and get the word out about their club.

Fox43′s Melissa Nardo is at the meeting and will have the latest when a decision is made.

Local News
03/20/13

Board Gets One More Week

The legal controversy over a high school club may be getting resolved.  The ACLU of Pennsylvania threatened to sue the Chambersburg Area School District over the gay-straight alliance club.  The board recently voted five to four not to approve the club.  But Wednesday the school district and the ACLU agreed that the club can gather at the school and enjoy every benefit of a school club until the board meets to vote on the issue again next Wednesday.  The ACLU and Equality Pennsylvania say the vote violates the Federal Equal Access Act.

Today was supposed to be the day a high school club went to court.  Instead the ACLU of Pennsylvania is holding off on filling a lawsuit against the Chambersburg Area School District.  The board recently voted 5-4 to not allow a gay-straight alliance club at the high school.  Chambersburg Public Opinion say.. ” the group has agreed to give the district until Wednesday to reverse the decision.. however there is no board meeting scheduled between now and Wednesday, March 20th.

 

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.

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