School board stands firm
The Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education has been known to flip-flop on the sensitive issue of whether to allow clubs like Gay-Straight Alliance on high school campuses.
But not this time. Wisely, last week the board stood firm.
Thursday the board majority voted to stand by a May decision to treat all non-curricular clubs the same. Reading between the lines, that means the board will not bow to considerable public pressure to take a course that would ban the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) — not by banning all non-curricular clubs, as board member Susan Cox suggested, nor by specifically outlawing the GSA. Two board members, Chuck Hughes and Josh Wagner, voted in the minority.
The nation is in the midst of a generational shift in attitudes about gay rights — from marriage to ordination to extracurricular clubs. Years from now, will younger generations wonder what all the fuss was about?
Last week’s vote shows that the school board, too, is changing with the times.
In 2006, the school board decided by a 6-1 vote that the Gay-Straight Alliance at South Rowan High School should be accorded the same right to exist as other non-curricular clubs on campus. As some members pointed out at the time, the decision shouldn’t be based on their personal convictions on the issue, but on what fairness — and the law — would indicate. When public pressure mounts, however, fairness and reason often yield to expediency. Confronted by an overflow crowd at a meeting just two weeks later, the board in 2006 unanimously voted to overturn that decision. Board members who had previously upheld the club’s right to exist changed their minds. Faced with making an unpopular decision, leaders sometimes decide it’s safer to be followers. The Gay-Straight Alliance was out.
Come 2014, attitudes have shifted a bit more. The board voted unanimously in May to approve Policy 6-8, an update said to reflect state and federal law that, by not banning clubs like the Gay-Straight Alliance, allows them. Some outcry ensued, and the school board faced a big crowd again last week. But the repeat of history ended there. The board seemed more intent on having its attorney explain the reasoning for the policy to the public than on seriously considering another about-face.
Many of those who oppose the board’s decision believe homosexuality is sinful; they’re following a Biblical injunction and demanding the board do likewise. That’s their right, and many believe it’s their religious duty. But the board cannot let religious conviction and emotionalism dictate public policy, in violation of individual rights. This time, the board did the right thing — on both votes.