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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 7, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 40
Victory in Kennewick
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Victory in Kennewick

by Joshua Michael Rumley - SGN Contributing Writer

Students, parents, community members and alumni of the Kennewick School District last week rejoiced in the school board's decision to reverse their policy that restricted Gay-Straight Alliances in the district. This victory may seem small but it's the small victories that often mean the world to someone.

The Kennewick School Board thought they had finally solved the GSA issue with the creation and implementation of the restrictive policy, but what they essentially did was poke a sleeping drag queen right in her tucked junk. The community was angry, the community was disgusted, and the community sprang into action.

Right when the news broke I personally created a Change.org petition and started circling it around the internet. With the support of my friends and family in Seattle and Eastern Washington I was able to get more than 4,000 signatures in little over a month. The fun thing about Change.org is that every time someone signed the petition, the school board received an email letting them know. Imagine the morning they logged in and received that first batch of emails. I bet it was a shock.

Kennewick isn't known for being the promised land for LGBTQ individuals. Sarah Palin has family there and she once visited to such fanfare you would have thought the President was in town. Even with so much adversity I was impressed with the show of force and support by organizations including the Vista Youth Center, PFLAG, ACLU, Mid-Columbia Pride, and Gay-Straight Alliances from other school districts. This is what the community needed; the school board's decision helped push members of the community to the point where enough was enough.

The catalyst for change is the moment when the systems in place no longer serve the entire community for which they were created. The systems in Kennewick were no longer serving the LGBTQ students or nurturing their development as productive members of the community. Change was the only answer and change was the end result the community sought - and achieved!

The students truly turned the tide on the issue with the school board in Kennewick. It still amazes me how much has changed since I was in high school; I'm nearing my 10-year reunion. Some students today have such amazing self-confidence that allows them to speak out and to stand up for their rights as LGBTQ individuals. I knew I was Gay in high school but I was too caught up in watching Gay porn on AOL dial-up to realize that being Gay required anything else.

The school board swore up and down that the restrictive club policy was designed to create a level playing field for all student clubs in the district - to makes things equal. I don't believe being restricted has ever translated into being 'equal.' Dan Savage recently expressed the sentiment that the entire school board should resign and I couldn't agree more. The board was working against the very students they were elected to serve, the same students who attended one board meeting after another to ask for support.

Our LGBTQ students need to be supported; they need to be told that they deserve to be treated equally in all matters of life. Gay-Straight Alliances serve the entire community and give a safe and inclusive environment for students to develop deeper understandings of themselves and the world. The Kennewick School Board, in the process of throwing the GSAs to the back of the bus, threw themselves under it. I think it's time for new school board members in Kennewick, ones who reach out to their students when they ask for support instead of turning their backs on them.

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