What’s the best way to prompt other high school kids to hate on gay kids? Ban after-school activities and blame it on a girl trying to start a support group for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender teenagers! That’s what happened earlier this year in Corpus Christi, Texas, at Flour Bluff High School, when Bianca “Nikki” Peet approached her school about starting a gay-straight alliance designed to promote tolerance and provide a supportive forum for discussion. Her principal, James Crenshaw, did not approve the club.
Flour Bluff High Independent School District came under fire this week about how their refusal to approve a GSA violates the Equal Access Act, a federal law passed in 1984 requiring federally funded schools to offer fair opportunities for students to start and maintain student organizations. Now, the American Civil Liberties Union has gotten involved, demanding that Flour Bluff confirm the club by March 9 or face legal action.
Flour Bluff’s ban on clubs only affects non-curricular student groups, of which there are four: the chess club; the Key Club; Family, Careers, Community Leaders of America; and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. The latter organization has already been asked to meet off campus, but the first three still convene at the school. Advocates of a GSA say that even if the school starts requiring the other three non-curricular organizations to meet away from the campus, they remain on shaky legal grounds, since there was no such policy when Nikki first approached the school and got rejected.
Pete Rodriguez, the president of the GSA at Texas A&M University Corpus Christi, has become a figurehead of the grassroots struggle. He spoke with KZTV, a local news station, about the absurdity of this debacle. He said:
Unfortunately, it’s starting to look like the bullying is coming from administration instead of students.
Rodriguez is scheduled to lead a peaceful demonstration today at Flour Bluff. The protests come on the heels of the far-reaching circulation of a national Change.org petition, which has already accumulated over 9,300 signatures.
This isn’t the first time in recent years that Flour Bluff administration decided that its best face forward is one of intolerance. Nicholas Sheffield, a 2006 alum from the school, said he tried to begin a similar organization when he was a student. He tried to host a Day of Silence, a popular LGBT activist event, at the school to represent LGBT students’ struggle to be heard. Sheffield explained:
I was told very forcefully no. … I think the only thing I was told more forcefully was when I had mentioned the concept of a GSA.
Schools across the country have been opposing GSAs for years—hell, in my own high school, six years ago the principal’s reason for disallowing a GSA was because if he allowed gay kids to have their own club, he’d also be forced to allow other groups, including white supremacists, to have their own organizations, too. Even though, you know, the very concept of a gay-straight alliance is to include students of all sexual orientation.
But at least at my school, that was six years ago. Flour Bluff’s struggle is happening now.
The school’s refusal to approve the club is quite ironic in a time when educational institutions across the country are rallying hard against this type of intolerance with stricter anti-bullying policies and Safe Schools acts. Promoting tolerance and understanding of other sexualities just isn’t part of the Flour Bluff curriculum—but spreading fear and making kids feel “less than” certainly is.