Antigay students stage walkout in Kentucky

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com November 06 2002 12:00 AM ET

More than one third of Boyd County [Ky.] High School's students missed a day of school to protest a decision to let a gay student group meet on campus, the district superintendent said. The students (420 of the school's 990 students were not in school Monday) will be counted as absent for the day, superintendent Bill Capehart said. Most of the absent students were boycotting because of last week's vote by the school's teacher-parent council regarding the Gay-Straight Alliance, Capehart said. A ministers' group is planning a community protest of the alliance Sunday.

The council's 3-2 vote was its third this year about the group. It rejected the group's application twice before student organizers contacted the American Civil Liberties Union, which sent a letter in September to the council saying it was violating the federal Equal Access Act by denying the alliance permission to meet at the school in Cannonsburg. The act says if schools allow some extracurricular groups to meet at school, it must allow all groups to do so.

Andrea Opell, 17, a senior from Rush, Ky., stayed out of school for part of the morning to participate in the protest but later showed up because she wanted to attend swim practice later in the day. "It's just quiet and gloomy," Opell said. "There's not a lot going on. Not a lot of cars in the parking lot. Not a lot of people in the hallway." She said it was unclear how many students stayed away because they opposed the alliance and how many decided to simply take a day off, especially with another free day Tuesday because of the election. But she said that "parents are behind the kids 100%" and that the boycott could extend until Wednesday or later.

Jenny Reese, mother of Lena Reese, a 15-year-old Catlettsburg sophomore who is a member of the alliance, called the boycott ridiculous. "I just don't think it's a good idea for parents to let their children stay home from school," Reese said. "It doesn't set a good example for tolerance."