Gay couples allowed to attend Utah high school's dances without permission

BY admin

December 23 2004 12:00 AM ET

The only person Jason Atwood has to ask now to attend a school dance is his boyfriend. Officials at Copper Hills High School in West Jordan, Utah, have reversed the school policy of requiring same-sex couples attending school dances to have parental permission slips. "If the student doesn't feel the need to tell the principal, a same-sex couple can just show up at the dance," Jordan School District spokeswoman Melinda Colton said Tuesday.

The school's about-face delighted Atwood, the 17-year-old senior who fought Principal Tom Worlton's rule. "That is very exciting," Atwood said Tuesday. "Maybe I was wrong when I said Copper Hills wasn't tolerant. They're a lot more willing to work with students than I thought they were."

Atwood and other students earlier this month conducted a four-day protest of the policy outside the suburban Salt Lake City high school, drawing both taunts from passersby and national attention. The school said it had implemented the policy for same-sex couples only to alert parents to the dangers their children might face. Atwood's parents refused to sign the slip for fear that it would absolve the
school of responsibility to protect their son.

A national gay rights organization said the issue points to a continuing problem: discrimination, bullying, or assaults of gay students in the nation's schools. Lambda Legal has launched its first national public service announcement campaign aimed at protecting gay youths. The group is targeting Utah with its television and radio public service announcements because of the Copper Hills fallout. "It became apparent that there was a particular need in this community for increased awareness, to educate gay students, public schools, and the community at large," said Michael Adams, Lambda's director of education and public affairs.

The ads feature various gay youths discussing their rights in school. The ads are funded partly by a former Reno student who won a $400,000 settlement in a federal civil rights suit against his school district. So far four Utah television stations have received the PSAs. But only one, KTVX in Salt Lake City, has committed to running it in January. "It's a nice piece," Shar Lewis, community affairs director of the ABC affiliate said. "It's a little controversial, but that's not going to prevent me
from running it."

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