Originally published in the Aug. 25, 2022 print edition of the Community Voice
An offer from a faculty member at Adair County High School to sponsor a club called the Gender and Sexuality Alliance Club drew the ire of some local citizens last week during a regularly scheduled meeting of the school’s Site Based Decision Making Council.
Members of the audience voiced concerns that the club would promote a homosexual direction and students could fall under peer pressure to join. They also questioned the role of the faculty member sponsoring the club.
The council took no action at the meeting.
“We have a faculty sponsor that is willing to do it. We are now looking to see if there is student interest,” said ACHS principal Chad Parnell. “That is part of our extracurricular programs policy. There has to be sufficient student interest.”
The GSA Club is a national organization and Parnell said it provides guidelines on how the club should operate and outlines the role of the sponsor.
“It is not exclusive to students that identify with the LGBTQ community. It is open to anyone,” he added.
Parnell told those in attendance he had been in contact with the Kentucky Association of School Councils, which is an advisory group for state district councils. Their officials advised him that if a club meets their policy, because the school accepts federal funds, they will be required to allow the club to exist, citing the Equal Access Act.
The policy provides a provision that a club may not materially or substantially interfere with the orderly conduct of educational activities within the school, Parnell said. The council will examine its extra- curricular programs policy at its September meeting.
The school policy states that support of programs will be based on student interest, availability of adult supervision, interest from students not usually involved in extra- curricular or service projects, enhancing the school’s overall programs, helping students become self-sufficient individuals, and helping students become responsible members of a family, work group or community.
The GSA Network website reports that the clubs are “student-run organizations that unite LGBTQ+ and allied youth to build community and organize around issues impacting them in their schools and communities.”
Parnell said the council can establish what sufficient student interest looks like for a particular club. If the club is established, there must be a faculty sponsor.
“We are not posting signs, students are not going to be signing petitions or doing any rostering,” Parnell said. “The students have to find the interest and come to me and illustrate to me there is enough student interest for us to do the club.”
The teacher’s offer to sponsor the club started moving on social media prior to the SBDM council meeting and Parnell said they were expecting members of the community to attend.
“It is a public meeting, an open forum and we’re the school of the community. I am glad to have them here and I want to hear their voice,” he said.
And he did hear their voices.
“I am from a different state where this has been implemented thousands and thousands of times,” said William McEachron. “These people infiltrate systems like the school system here, and they get it passed because they have an agenda.
“I would just as soon have no clubs of any kind, and have the school be about school, about academics, not social engineering. If that means no clubs of any kind, including Christian clubs, so that a club like that doesn’t get put in this school system, I am all for that.”
Mike Helm said he has grandchildren attending the school and he is willing to fight the club no matter what. Julia Darnell said she has a grandson that is autistic, and she is concerned about him getting involved with the club.
“I am totally against this club,” Carol Cowan said. “I don’t know what other clubs you have here, but I have some grandkids growing up and I don’t want them exposed to this. I think a club should have a value to it. What is the value of this club? I think we should be concentrating on something that’s going to add value to their (students’) lives.”
Parnell said the idea of not having any clubs at all at the school, if it were to be considered, would probably be adjusted to say clubs would have to be curriculum related. As an example, FFA is related to the ag department, and the Art Club is related to the art department.
Parnell, who chose not to name the faculty member making the offer to help, said as principal he is here for the students and that he will do what the law says he needs to do.
“I think there is a lot of misinformation, not intentionally, but I think people just assume things,” Parnell said. “I would want everyone to know this club has to be student initiated and it has to have student interest, and we don’t’ have that yet. Until that is there, there is nothing to move forward on.”
By Scott Wilson