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School gay club nears reality

A 7-1 favorable vote from the Associated Student Body officers has cleared the way for creation of a Gay-Straight Alliance chapter at Oak Harbor High School.

Assistant Principal Dwight Lundstrom recently brought the proposal to the ASB, with the only “no” vote cast by senior class president Holly Blindauer. While she said her vote was based on her religious convictions, she declined to publicly explain her vote further, saying that her advisor Sally Jacobs told her that as senior class president she was “under a microscope.”

ASB advisor Denise Snow said the student council vote was supposed to be a “secret ballot,” and that how students voted was not supposed to be made public.

Blindauer did submit a written statement to the Whidbey News-Times which read in part, “My generation is among the first to play an active role in making decisions regarding homosexuality in the world. I am eager to learn more about this issue and the people it affects in the future. This small debate about the Gay-Straight Alliance and its affiliation within Oak Harbor High School has really opened my eyes to how my generation will be responsible for shaping homosexuality’s role in society.”

The issue began in November when seniors A.J. Burgin and Korja Giles proposed starting a local chapter of the national Gay-Straight Alliance, a group which seeks to both educate youth about what gay students may be experiencing, and to provide a support group for those teens and their friends. Now that it has ASB support, it will go to Principal Dick Devlin for final approval, then they can elect officers and start meeting.

Not all 1,800 students at the high school are comfortable with the proposal. Senior Chris Reedy and Blindauer have been asking students the question, “Do you feel that an ASB club based on sexual preference is appropriate for a high school setting?”

“When I heard about it my first thought was, ‘No way. They’ve gotta be kidding,’” Reedy said. “I knew I had to put my voice out there, (or) students who also don’t want this won’t be heard.”

Reedy doesn’t feel school is the place for a club of a personal nature. He said he didn’t have a problem with the club, but that it shouldn’t be a school-supported organization.

By law, all public schools must allow students to form virtually any club they desire.

A 1990 Supreme Court ruling held that schools must permit all non-curricular groups to meet on an equal footing, even if a school disapproves of or disagrees with the group’s messages and goals. That ruling didn’t sway Reedy. “Just because it’s legally allowed, I don’t think it’s appropriate for a school setting,” he said. “The main purpose of school is to be educated for life later on.”

He said he would also not support a religion-based club at school.

So far, the survey results have been evenly split, according to Reedy, although they have not gone beyond a simple yes or no.

He felt that asking the students directly would get better results than passing out a survey.

“If they are asked directly it brings the issue out,” he said. “A lot of people would sit on the sidelines otherwise.”

He hoped to poll at least 50 members of each class, as well as the community at large.

Reedy and Blindauer said they had not studied the Gay-Straight Alliance in-depth, nor visited the organization’s parent Web site, www.glsen.org.

The Web site explains why the club is designed to be school-based. The mission of Gay-Straight Alliance groups is to “create safe environments in schools for students to support each other and learn about homophobia and other oppressions; educate the school community about homophobia, gender, identity and sexual orientation issues, and fight discrimination, harassment and violence in schools.”

While Burgin and Giles have said they know of gay students who have been harassed at the high school, none could be found who would speak publicly about the club or their school experiences.

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