Live and Let Live

Several of our students attended the workshop portion of our Board of Education meeting last night to talk about the organization of the GSA (Gay Straight Alliance). Long time readers of this blog will recall my posts at the beginning of this school year about our kids and their desire to meet as a group.

I thought last night’s workshop was productive, our kids well spoken, and the conversation worthwhile. Our superintendent and Board of Education explained to the students about the different kinds of groups that exist in and around a school. One, the outside groups, like the Boy Scouts and youth basketball, who use our buildings in the evenings. Two, the school clubs which are currently in the teachers’ contract and follow all of the school accountability measures with their student activity accounts. Three, student groups such as the GSA, which are Gowanda students, supervised by a faculty member, with access to all of our “communicative means”, like announcing meetings and hanging up signs. The Board recognized our kids as this third type of group.

Somehow, between last night and today, a different message was found. It definitely wasn’t the one I heard last night. Some of our kids were talking about how the Board denied the club and that they thought they should stage a protest. Two of the kids were even at the meeting with me. How they heard that it was denied, I can’t imagine.

So here we were today, with several students getting all worked up about a group that came together to promote acceptance. I’m stymied because I look back and think that we did everything right. The kids were respectful at all points along the way, their advisor phenomenal, and I think I’ve been supportive of all students.

And guess what bothers me most about this topic? While my students are all worked up about a topic to which most don’t even have their facts straight, and several stand divided and intolerant where they weren’t before, I’m left wondering who’s thinking about mathematics, English, Science, Art, Social Studies, LOTE, and PREPARING FOR THE REGENTS EXAMS?! For the first time all year, I’m sorry we headed down this path because a “debate” is consuming our youngest students and pushing our primary business out of their heads. And I suspect for some, it’s just the latest drama to get worked up about while for others, like some of the organizers, it’s a topic about which they feel passionately. 

Teachers, help me out, this cannot become the focus of our learning in G-Town. What we’re experiencing may be normal in the growth process, but it needs to just be a part of our school discussions, not all of it. The only way I would NOT support this group is if it’s existence became completely disruptive to our educational process.

Let’s get a grip please, there’s a lot more to us than two viewpoints on one group. No one has the right to tell anyone else how to think or feel on any topic, that’s up to each of us, as individuals. If I’m hearing everyone correctly, we need to “live and let live.”

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One Comment
  1. Your GSA process has mirrored the one that happened at our school about five years ago, minus the hate group protesting at our graduation the first year our group was established! (This hate group is the same one that is currently protesting at funerals for soldiers who died in Iraq.) Initially, the GSA applied to be a school-sponsored club, but it did not meet the requirements of being directly related to the curriculum. This caused controversy on both sides the first year, but it has become a non issue over time. GSA meets now, like many other student-initiated groups, as an “independent student organized group.” These groups have access to our printed and intercom announcements and to bulletin boards. Hang in there. The furor will die down as students see how the group will be able to function and as people get used to the idea of having the group meet on campus.

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