Kentucky student group to stay in school

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com December 19 2002 1:00 AM ET

The Boyd County, Ky., school board and superintendent want to institute a measure that would keep nonacademic clubs--including a gay-straight alliance--from meeting at a county high school, but the county's school-based council has failed to back the measure. The school board voted unanimously Monday to approve Superintendent Bill Capehart's recommendation to suspend the clubs. Capehart made the recommendation after mediation between groups supporting and opposing the gay-straight alliance failed on two occasions to reach agreement. But Tuesday night the school-based council debated the decision for two hours without reaching a consensus, said Kaye King, faculty adviser to the 30-member gay-straight alliance. "I'm very pleased" that the council did not back the measure, King said. "We've been meeting on a weekly basis and will continue to do so. Within the school, things are settling down."

Board members designed their measure to prevent the gay-straight alliance, which was formed in October, from meeting on school grounds for the rest of the academic year. The measure would affect four other nonacademic clubs--the Human Rights Club, the Pep Club, the Bible Club, and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Capehart said he thinks nonacademic clubs are creating an "educational disruption" in the schools. He didn't single out the gay group for specific mention but said the groups' "emphasis was on the club and not student achievement." Capehart added that 16 academic clubs would continue to meet on school grounds.

Teresa Lynn Cornette, a school board member, said Monday's vote was the culmination of a battle she's fought for several years. "This to me has little to do with the gay-straight alliance and more to do with high school and where they're at," Cornette said. "Instructional time hasn't been used effectively by taking up that time to use for clubs."

The decision to suspend all nonacademic groups came after several tense weeks at Boyd County High School, which included hundreds of students staying home to protest the school's decision to allow the gay-straight alliance to meet on school grounds. Last month hundreds of people signed petitions and donated money at a rally protesting the decision to allow the group to meet. Two county ministers have pressed an appeal of the October 28 decision by the school's teacher-parent council, which recognized the group and let it meet at school. The Reverend Tim York, pastor of Heritage Temple Free Will Baptist Church in Cannonsburg and president of the Boyd County Ministerial Association, said he would continue the appeal process if the school-based council overturned the school board's decision.