Policy on school clubs remains as is Without changes, groups like gay, straight alliance free to meet on campus
After much public comment and debate, the policy outlining the Rowan-Salisbury School system’s guidelines for non-curriculum clubs, remains the same.
“The board took no action to change the policy,” said Chairman Dr. Richard Miller. “We considered multiple options.”
“We wanted to, we just couldn’t choose what to do,” said board member L.A. Overcash.
In May, the school board unanimously approved Policy 6-8, which they said was an update to reflect state and federal law. The previous policy, passed in 2006, banned any sex-based clubs from meeting within the Rowan-Salisbury School System.
With the policy change, however, groups like Gay-Straight Alliance are now free to meet on high school campuses across the district.
At the board’s last meeting, however, people came out in droves to speak against the changes to the policy.
In response, board members decided to consult their attorney in open session about state and federal law pertaining to non-curricular clubs in school.
Although public comment was not originally included on the agenda, the board moved to add it, since 14 people requested to speak.
Four of those people spoke in favor of leaving the policy as is — allowing all non-curricular clubs, including Gay-Straight Alliance — to continue to meet.
The other 10 spoke against the policy. Six of those also spoke at the board’s last meeting.
Michael Clawson has two daughters who went through the Rowan-Salisbury School System. One of his daughters identifies as lesbian and grew up without a Gay-Straight Alliance in her school.
Clawson pointed to the Equal Access Act, which was signed into law in 1984, that states that all student clubs must be treated equally.
“By allowing GSAs, our board is simply following the letter of the law,” he added.
“But beyond the legal aspect and much more importantly, harassment and bullying are serious problems in our schools today, and unfortunately, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students are the targets of a disproportionate share of these problems,” he said.
Clawson added, “GSAs are developed and formed — not to discuss sex, they’re not sex-based club — but so students, gay and straight, can support each other, create a safe environment and foster tolerance and acceptance between straight students and LGBT students.”
Charity Waycaster, holding her newborn baby girl, tearfully approached the board, begging them to change the policy.
For other people to tell her daughter that she can be anything other than a girl “would be against the perfect design God has for her life,” she said.
After roughly 45 minutes of public comment, Ken Soo, the school board’s attorney, addressed the board about the legal ramifications of the policy.
Some clubs, such as a glee club, Spanish club and FFA, are a part of the curriculum, he explained. Other clubs, such as Key Club, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Junior Civitan Club, Bible Studies, Young Republicans, Young Democrats and Gay-Straight Alliance, are student led, non-curricular clubs.
Soo explained that because the school system receives federal funding, the Equal Access Act and other case law throughout the years means that if they allow some non-curriculum clubs to meet, all non-curriculum clubs must be able to meet.
Board member Susan Cox made a motion to only allow curriculum clubs to meet at Rowan-Salisbury Schools.
“The school’s job is to educate,” she said, adding that the topic has only led to controversy and tension.
“We do have some wonderful clubs in our schools that really help so many of our students. I don’t want us to throw out the baby with the bathwater,” said Vice Chair Kay Wright Norman.
“I’m not going to vote to shut down other clubs. Two wrongs don’t make a right,” said board member Josh Wagner.
Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody said that while she understood and could support such a motion, she was “a little concerned about the graduation rate” because many extracurricular clubs encourage students to come to school.
“I could definitely support either way,” she said. “Unfortunately, I think we’ll lose something either way.”
The board voted and the motion failed.
Wagner made a motion to keep the spirit of the initial policy, but change the language to be more in line with current law. The motion also failed.
Board members asked if students have to have parental permission to join non-curriculum clubs at school.
Assistant Superintendent Nathan Currie said that according to the current language in policy 6-8, parents would have the opportunity to opt out their child’s participation in any club.
The board asked that the language be changed to an opt-in policy, rather than opt-out to give parents more control.