BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) – Educators and parents in southern Indiana are calling for more training and awareness of the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students after a high school’s failed attempt to establish a “Straight Pride” club.
A group of students at Bloomington High School North had proposed starting the faith-based club in the 2015-16 school year. Principal Jeff Henderson said federal law required the school to allow the club, which students had said would offer “specific supports for heterosexual students.”
The idea died when the teacher who had agreed to sponsor the club withdrew following a community outcry, The Herald-Times reported. But the proposal has raised concerns about the atmosphere at the school and the need for increased awareness of the LGBT community.
Greg Chaffin, a guidance counselor at North and the faculty sponsor of the school’s Gay Straight Alliance, said he was happy that plans for club had fallen through but noted that there are still students motivated to start a group, which he called a smokescreen for bullying.
“Whether or not they find sponsorship, I think we need to have discussions around why these students felt compelled to have this group and what that means for our schools, our community and our Gay Straight Alliance,” Chaffin said.
He noted that tension has been bubbling up at the school since the Gay Straight Alliance demonstrated at North on the National Day of Silence in April. Alliance members hung a “hands against homophobia” poster in the library and wore tape over their mouths to represent the silencing of LGBT students through bullying and harassment.
He said some students were called derogatory names and had the tape torn from their mouths. At least one teacher wouldn’t allow students to wear the tape in the classroom, he said.
Amy Makice, who has a child attending Bloomington High School South, said she was saddened by the proposal to create the club and thinks more discussion and training for faculty are needed.
“I think it was a missed opportunity to sit down and talk with these kids about, ‘What is it you really want from this group? How can we meet those needs without making a group that instills fear in other people?'” Makice said.
She said she has spoken with school administrators and is in touch with parents who plan to push for systemic change relating to LGBT students in the Monroe County Community School Corp.
“Teachers are great and love the students and care about them, but they don’t know what issues come up with LGBT kids and how to best support them, help them and welcome them,” she said. “A training on helping and supporting LGBT students, I think it’s time that we had that at MCCSC. We should be leading the way in that.”