Franklin County Officials Weigh Strict New Rules For Student Clubs in Response to Controversy Over Gay-Straight Alliance
In response to the controversy over a newly formed Gay-Straight Alliance, the school board in Franklin County, Tennessee, is set to approve strict new regulations affecting all non-curricular clubs, including a requirement that students obtain parental permission before joining.
LGBT students and their allies clashed with adult anti-gay protesters on Monday outside Franklin County High School in the small town of Winchester, where board members discussed the proposed new regulations that are expected to be voted on in April.
Supporters of the GSA staged a peaceful rally prior to the meeting, but things got heated when they encountered anti-gay protesters with Westboro Baptist Church-style signs saying things like, "DANGER: SIN KILLS: TURN OR BURN," suggesting that LGBT people who don't change their sexuality will go to Hell.
“You will go to Hell for judging," one student told an anti-gay protester before a sheriff's deputy intervened and separated them, according video (above) from Nashville's Fox 17.
The anti-gay protester was wearing a T-shirt saying: "Homosexuality Leads to Hell" on the front and "LGBT: Letting Go Of Biblical Truth" on the back. As we reported Monday, national anti-LGBT hate groups MassResistance and Liberty Counsel have joined the fight against the GSA.
The school board called in extra security, barred supporters and opponents of the GSA from bringing large signs into the auditorium, and ordered the crowd to remain silent during the meeting.
In addition to parental consent before joining clubs, the proposed new rules would require all student organizations to keep membership rolls, attendance logs and minutes of their meetings. In addition, non-curricular clubs would be barred from "solicitation for membership," an apparent response to fears that the GSA will be used to recruit children, and required to obtain approval from the administration before having visitors.
Only one board member, Adam Tucker, objected to some of the requirements, saying he believes they're designed to target the GSA, which first met in January.
"Prior to January, there was never any discussion by this board, or to my knowledge, discussion among any administrative employees, about seeking approval from parents before children participate in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes or P7," Tucker said, referring to two non-curricular clubs for Christian students. "It's a double standard."
When supporters of the GSA cheered Tucker's statements, board Chair Kevin Caroland threatened to remove them. Caroland then argued that according to Tucker's logic, the board could never consider new rules for student clubs — since the GSA was the most recent one approved. He also said the board's legal counsel has indicated that the language is acceptable.
"As an attorney who represents school districts and local governments regularly against federal civil rights claims, I respectfully disagree," Tucker responded.
Other board members referenced a Tennessee law requiring any school-sponsored discussion of sexuality to stress abstinence, as well as pending state legislation that would require parental permission to join student clubs.
Tucker also objected to the solicitation ban and a requirement that clubs promote “a positive school and community atmosphere and unity" — saying it is subjective. And he proposed an appeals process if clubs are accused of violating the rules.
The GSA's faculty sponsor later wrote on Facebook that despite the proposed new rules, it was "a good night, on balance." Last week, board members indicated they would consider eliminating all non-curricular clubs to get rid of the GSA without violating the federal Equal Access Act.
"The GSA still stands," the faculty sponsor wrote. "The clubs still stand. And overworked and underpaid faculty (and administrators) will likely be buried in paperwork ... again.
"I cannot tell you how wonderful these FCHS GSA kids are!" she added. "Wow! They are going to change the world. You can count on it."
After the meeting, supporters of the GSA again clashed with opponents.
"It’s not discrimination or hate," the man wearing the anti-gay T-shirt told Fox 17. "It’s actually loving them and helping them."
"I love the homosexuals. I want them in heaven with me, and the Bible is clear that with that choice of lifestyle, they’re not going to go there," said anti-gay protester Christine Weick.
Weick is a national Christian activist and author who's best known for her theory that Monster energy drinks are the work of Satan:
Images: Screenshots via Fox 17