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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 26, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 34
Kennewick School Board torpedoes GSAs - An editorial by a former Kennewick student
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Kennewick School Board torpedoes GSAs - An editorial by a former Kennewick student

by Joshua Michael Rumley - SGN Contributing Writer

A few months ago, I was elated to find out that the school board in Kennewick - my hometown - granted equal access to Gay-Straight Alliances in their high schools. I applauded them, as did numerous students, parents, and school officials, for making a progressive step forward for LGBT students.

Well that elation was short-lived; last week, the school board passed a policy that not only restricts GSAs, but restricts every other student club that they deemed outside the normal curriculum taught in high school. This is the moment where we all must bend over and bite our lower lip, because our students just got royally screwed.

The new policy was made under the guise of making student clubs actually 'equal' for the entire student population. So why is there so much anger? Why, in the aftermath of the new policy, are so many organizations rallying together against the school board?

Two reasons: The school board quickly took back the very right they granted to a group of students who are most in need of an inclusive environment to meet, and because it's total and absolute bullshit.

To say I'm angry over the Kennewick School Board's decision is barely scratching the surface. As a past Kennewick School District student (I completed grades K-12 in the district), I understand firsthand what it's like to grow up as a Gay student in Kennewick. I know what it's like to hear people casually call others 'fag' or 'faggot' in the hallways. I know what it's like to be pushed to the breaking point when trying to deal with my sexuality. Yes, I'm angry over this decision, but really I'm disgusted with the pathetic choices made by the Kennewick School Board.

A fun fact about the recent string of events: The Kennewick School Board was knowingly in violation of the Equal Access Law, which states that federally funded secondary schools must provide equal access to extracurricular clubs. The district was granting different levels of access to a variety of different clubs while denying GSAs. I wonder if the Kennewick School Board only granted GSAs full access in their schools to shut the LGBT community up - to allow themselves more time to craft a new policy that without question would solve the 'homosexual liberal agenda.' This 'problem' was not solved by the new policy - it only created a set of new ones.

Kennewick is located in an area often referred to as the Tri-Cities. The area is made up of three midsize cities: Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland. Richland and Pasco both allow GSAs equal access in their schools. Kennewick, on the other hand, has their heads lodged up their backsides.

What's most upsetting about the new policy is that it not only restricts GSAs, but it also restricts a number of different clubs such as the Key Club, which is a community-service-focused group and a club I once belonged to. The restrictions placed upon these groups limit the amount of exposure they have within the school. It also takes away a paid advisor to help direct the group, and it removes Associated Student Body accounts, which are necessary for fundraising. Don't expect to see these groups in the annual yearbook; the new policy makes sure these clubs are not represented. The groups can exist, but the school board is making the statement loud and clear that these groups should not expect any support from the school.

These clubs are incredibly important for students, as they provide opportunities to build a vital set of skills that will not only help them become more productive members of society but will also increase their chances of receiving scholarships for college. These clubs allow students to discover new interests, become more confident in their skills, and aid in forming their adult identity. They provide an environment for self-discovery, and isn't that what we want for the future leaders of our great country?

The message the new policy in the Kennewick School District sends is clear: You like to do community service? Who cares! You like to talk about important issues facing the community? Who cares! If it's not math, science, or history, it has no place in high school. You're LGBT? Who cares! You're only seeking special treatment. You're in dance and cheer? Awesome, because this policy doesn't affect you. Please pass Go and collect your exemption from the rule!

High school sucks for most of us, so why make it rougher? Go back to the drawing board, Kennewick, grant equal access to all student clubs, and stop allowing personal ignorance and bigotry to dictate policy. And this time, Kennewick School Board members Heather Kintzley, Kathy White, Lynn Fielding, and Dawn Adams, please think of the children!

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