Antigay Baptist school appeals voucher program rejection
October 24 2003 12:00 AM ET
A private Baptist school will appeal a decision by Denver-area school officials to reject its voucher-program application because the school would expel gay students. Last week's rejections by Denver Public Schools and Jefferson County officials are unfair and contradict the purpose of the state voucher plan, said Rodolfo Gomez, principal of Silver State Baptist School in Lakewood. DPS board members rejected Silver State's application on Thursday, citing its discipline policy calling for automatic dismissal for premarital sex, homosexuality, and "sexual perversion." Under the state voucher program, a school board can reject a private school's application if it advocates or fosters unlawful behavior or teaches hatred of a person or group. "The board's interpretation of the statute is that a school cannot promote hate," DPS school board president Elaine Berman said on Tuesday. "We believe that this school's policy toward various groups does promote hate and discrimination." Jefferson County school board members rejected Silver State's application for similar reasons.
Gomez said his school has not received formal notices of denial, but he plans to appeal any rejection. He said an openly gay student would be "counseled as to the biblical understanding as to what it is that is appropriate and inappropriate in that situation." He said the 202-student school has not had an openly gay student in its 39-year history. "Because we don't have a history, I would say we would treat it like other students caught with a smoking problem," Gomez said. "We work with them through the process, and once we see they don't have any desire to correct the problem or they don't want to deal with it appropriately, then we make those determinations" about expulsion.
Private schools whose applications to participate in the voucher program are rejected have 30 days to appeal to the state Board of Education, which is expected to begin hearing appeals in December.