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Policy revision opens door to Gay-Straight Alliance in schools

The Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education, during their meeting Monday, quietly approved changes to Policy 6-8, that allows sexually-oriented clubs to operate in Rowan-Salisbury Schools.
This decision comes nearly eight years after another unanimous vote from the school board for an amendment banning all such clubs in the district.
“It was an outdated policy,” said Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody. “We’re just trying to get more aligned with current laws.”
The policy banned sexually-oriented clubs such as the Gay-Straight Alliance and urged students to talk about any emotional issues concerning sexuality with school guidance counselors.
Vice Chairman of the Board of Education Kay Wright Norman is the only current board member who was on the board when the groups were banned in 2006.
“They said their goal was to teach,” Norman said as she explained her primary objection to the group in the past.
“The only people we can allow to teach is a certified teacher,” she said.
With the omission of the 2006 amendment in the updated policy, however, these clubs will be free to meet.
“I think it’s a major step forward,” said Ali Culp, the North Rowan High School senior who started the Gay-Straight Alliance on her campus last year.
Mike Clawson, founder of the Rowan-Salisbury PFLAG, or Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays, said the school board made the right decision, not only in the interest of Rowan-Salisbury students, but also to be in line with the law.
“I’m pleased as punch about the board’s decision,” he said.
Two years ago, students at East Rowan High School started a Gay-Straight Alliance club, and last May, students at North Rowan also started a group.
“I heard about East having one at first,” Culp said, adding that she has a number of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender students.
“Walking through the halls you hear all sorts of comments that are hurtful,” she said. “They need to feel accepted within their own school.”
After North Rowan’s Gay-Straight Alliance participated in the school’s homecoming festivities, it was brought to the principal’s attention that the club was not in compliance with district policies, so the group’s activities were suspended.
“They were obviously devastated,” said Bob Johnsen, a North Rowan social studies teacher and Gay-Straight Alliance staff adviser.
So, Culp, Johnsen, Clawson and a lawyer met with a school board subcommittee to explain what Gay-Straight Alliance clubs are and how they benefit Rowan-Salisbury schools.
Culp said the group is “a safe space for the students to come in and they can feel welcomed being who they are.”
When the revised policy was brought to the school board, the 2006 amendment had been removed, in addition to other general policy changes.
The revised policy was unanimously approved on both its first and second reading.

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