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Decision on gay, straight clubs getting another look

Thursday’s Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education meeting was packed — not because the district announced a location for its new central office, but because of backlash over the policy that opened the door for sex-based clubs in the district’s schools.
As a result, the school board will schedule a work session with its lawyer to further discuss Policy 6-8.
School board members unanimously approved Policy 6-8 on May 19, which deals with clubs and extracurricular activities.
The new policy no longer stands in the way of students who want to form gay-straight alliance clubs or similar groups.
At the time, Moody said the old policy was “outdated” and needed to be better aligned with current laws.
Fourteen people addressed the board during the public comment portion of Thursday’s meeting. Eleven of them expressed their disapproval of the revision to the policy.
“Folks say we can’t legislate morality, yet we find ourselves legislating immorality,” said Jason Josey. “This new policy prohibits parents, promotes perversity and it panders to problems within our schools.”
“Elected officials, I urge you to immediately repeal this policy and return to a ban on all sexually oriented groups,” Josey added.
“I’m so disappointed in your decision. This organization should not have access to our children,” Phyllis Sides said.
County Commissioner Mike Caskey also took the floor. While he acknowledged school board members have a difficult job, and must make difficult decisions, he encouraged them to have a full discussion on the policy at their next meeting.
Caskey said he believed a “super majority” of the county would be opposed to the policy, as 72.4 percent of Rowan County citizens voted to define marriage between one woman and one man two years ago, and the vocal opposition to gay-straight alliance clubs in schools in 2006.
Each speaker had three minutes to address the school board with comments. The board doesn’t respond to public comments.
After the meeting, Moody said the board was legally advised that the old policy “wasn’t in accordance to the law.”
“We changed the policy to reflect what we believe the law requires. That is a board’s obligation to do — to follow the law,” she said.
Moody said the district doesn’t endorse or teach homosexuality. “It’s not a part of the curriculum,” she said.
But she said the clubs are student led, just like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes or the Junior Civitan Clubs.
“We don’t teach Christianity, but we allow them to meet after school,” she said. “It’s student led. That’s what’s important to understand.”
Moody and Miller are working with board members on setting a time, and they plan to have the work session in early July. The date will be announced when it is set.
The meeting, at which board members will consult with an attorney for clarification, will be held in open session.
Miller stressed, however, that the meeting would not be an open debate with the public about the policy. He said the public had an opportunity to speak at Thursday’s meeting. The next meeting will be the school board’s turn.
When the issue first came up in May, school board member Josh Wagner said the policy wasn’t rewritten to include gay-straight alliance groups.
“This is obviously a very sensitive issue,” he said.
Wagner said he didn’t want the policy to be “used as a political tool” and to, in turn, ostracize any students.
“My main concern is the students,” he said.

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