You know your home state has rolled forward a good bit when some of the high school kids want to form a gay club. That’s the news today where I grew up, in Rankin County, Mississippi.
Their elders, on the other hand, don’t sound so welcoming. When the idea of a club for gay students came up at a school board meeting last night, superintendent Lynn Weathersby suggested that the best way to curb clubs they “don’t want to endorse and don’t want” is to make the kids first get permission from their parents. From the Jackson Clarion-Ledger’s report on the new policy:
“There has been a group wanting to form a gay club. I talked to (board attorney) Freddie and several administrators about what we could legally do to limit organizations like that on campus that we don’t want to endorse and don’t want,” Weathersby said… .
Weathersby said after talking to the the board attorney and administrators, he found that the best strategy for limiting organizations is by requiring parents to sign a consent form to allow their students to participate in the club.
Superintendent Weathersby serves as an elected official. His bio on the school district’s website notes that he “does an outstanding job.” You can see him below, kicking off the 2014-2015 school year. “I know everyone’s very excited about getting started this year, and if there’s anything I can do to help you, please let me know,” he says in the video. (But if you’re gay and you’re thinking a gay club might help you, ask your parents.)
Update, 4:40pm: According to an updated report from the Clarion-Ledger, the superintendent says all clubs will now need parental permission, not just the gay ones that “they don’t want to endorse and don’t want” and that sparked the policy change. Also, if you’re wondering about homegrown opposition to this, the local Human Rights Campaign has weighed in:
“The policy sends a harmful message to LGBT students in Rankin County that they are not welcomed within their classrooms, at school functions or on the bus. The board’s actions tell LGBT students that they should be ashamed of who they are and that their lives are valued less than their peers,” said HRC Mississippi State Director Rob Hill. “Keeping our children safe is critical. We demand the Superintendent, and the board, reverse its decision to publicly humiliate, degrade and embarrass young LGBT people.
Update, 1/16/15: Meet the kids who want to start the gay/straight alliance that got this all rolling.