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Parental approval
bill for gay student clubs revived in Georgia

Parental approval
bill for gay student clubs revived in Georgia

A bill linked to controversy over a gay student club at a north Georgia school was revived in the state senate on Tuesday, in a tougher form than a similar measure already passed by the house. The move came one day after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit against White County's school district, saying it is unfairly preventing a group for gay students and their friends from meeting at a high school.

Republican state senator Nancy Schaefer introduced legislation that would require parents to sign off on any school club their child joins. Schaefer, who represents White County, successfully attached the legislation as an amendment to another bill that requires parental permission for a student to drop out of school. She said her amendment was not directly aimed at the controversy over the gay club.

"We have strong support from parents all over the state," she said. "They just want to be notified; they want to know what's going on with their children." Schaefer's amendment was approved by an unrecorded show of hands. The bill it was attached to passed 42-9.

Chuck Bowen, director of Georgia Equality, the state's largest gay rights organization, dismissed claims that the amendment had nothing to do with the White County controversy. "This clearly is directed toward gay-straight alliances, and anyone who says otherwise is being completely misleading and just downright lying," Bowen said.

In January 2005, a group of students led by Kerry Pacer, TheAdvocate's Person of the Year, wanted to start a gay support group called PRIDE at White County High School in Cleveland, Ga. The school board agreed to allow the club, but school administrators later recommended eliminating all "noncurricular clubs" at the high school. The club has continued to meet off campus. The ACLU lawsuit claims other clubs, including a shooting club and a dance team, have been allowed to meet at school.

On February 15, the state house passed a bill similar to Schaefer's measure. But the house version would have required parents to specify the club or clubs they do not wish their child to join. Schaefer's bill requires parents to approve every club their child joins, not merely decline the ones with which they don't agree.

Bowen said his group "could live with" the house version. "We considered that far more acceptable," he said. "Senator Schaefer's language is just mean-spirited, bigoted, and full of hate." Schaefer said she merely intended to get parents more involved in their children's school activities. "Nowadays, it looks like people can do just about anything and parents don't have to be notified," she said. "What this does is, it puts parents back in control." (AP)

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