Lawsuit Threatened Over Gay-Straight Alliance Club in Franklin County School

By Central Voice
Central to your life.

After board members voted 5-4 not to support a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) club at Chambersburg Area Senior High School, two groups have threatened a lawsuit against the district if the board doesn’t change its vote by the end of the week.

The ACLU of Pennsylvania and Equality Pennsylvania sent a letter to the district’s leadership Tuesday, saying the board is in violation of the federal Equal Access Act. The club has been meeting but is not formally recognized by district. Not having recognition hampers communicating about the club and fund raising, examples of resources used by other recognized organizations.

Carl Barton, one of the school directors to vote against formation of the club, told Fox43, “I thought there should be more public discussion. It has become controversial other places.” He refused to speak on camera.

Central Voice asked Martin to reflect on school board member Carl Barton’s statement to Fox43 about more public discussion. Martin responded,”As for discussion, they can have all the respectful conversation they like but in the end the law requires them to permit the formation of a GSA.”

Martin continued with “The school board has a wonderful opportunity to let their LGBT students know that they don’t have to wait until they get older to have a safe space to be themselves and that they can have it right now, at Chambersburg High School.”

Since the controversy began, Thomas McCalmont, a Chambersburg Area Senior High School alumnus has coordinated a petition on change.org which as of this morning has received 5,698 signatures. He hopes to have at least one board member change votes, reversing the 5-4 refusal.

In his communication to school board directors, McCalmont reports that bullying is bad within the school, sometimes reported, sometimes not, and that students fear retribution. He notes that “Students who identify as LGBTQ are 2 to 3 times more likely to be bullied in school, and 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual counterparts. 9 out of 10 students that identify as LGBTQ report being harassed at school.”

Martin says the lack of an LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying law in Pennsylvania means local school districts are left on their own to ensure safe environments for LGBT students. “We hope that Chambersburg School Board will do the right thing and allow students to organize a GSA in their district.

The school board meets tonight but no action on the matter is expected.

Petition: http://www.change.org/chambersburgGSA

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