Hillsborough County School Board rejects parent permission to join Gay-Straight Alliances by Mitch E. Perry

12/13/06

After a 2 hour debate, the Hillsborough County School Board lat night voted NOT to require students to get parental permission to join a club at school.

The discussion was initiated after controversy erupted last year over the creation of a gay-straight alliance at Newsome High School in Lithia. A parent group objected to such a club there, though similar clubs were in existence throughout the School District.

Superintendant Mary Ann Elia led off the discussion last night by bringing forth her proposal that students have their parents sign a permission slip for their children to participate in a club. Elia admitted that though the request was across the board for all clubs, it was the gay-straight alliance that had aroused such intense interest (roll tape#1 o.q.�and for all clubs�)

The question of parental involvement with students was the backdrop to the issue before the Board. When gay-straight alliances – or GSA’s –became an issue in Hillsborough last year, the school board formed a task force to study it, and make recommendations to the board. But USF teacher Rick Weinberg , who served on 2 task force committees regarding the GSA’s, said the recommendation from Superintendant Elia was NOT was not the consensus that came out of such committees(roll tape#2o .q.� reject permission slips� )

The Reverend Phyllis Hunt from the Metropolitan Community Church in Tampa said she wishes she had the opportunity to attend a Gay-Straight Alliance Club when she was in High School (roll tape#3 o.q.�to diversity� )

Russ Patterson said he is a 20 year Air Force Veteran. He said the permission requirement was a form of bureaucratic overkill (roll tape#4 o.q.�organization�)

Nadine Smith from the gay rights group Equality Florida said this was a solution in search of a problem (roll tape#5 o.q.� closer scrutiny�)

Christian activist Terry Kemple threatened the Board if they rejected written consent (roll tape#6 o.q.� do vote, that way�)

Michael Francle graduated from Brandon High School earlier this year. He used reams of paper as props to demonstrate his point about the excessive amount of paperwork that the School District was asking for by requiring the forms (roll tape#6 o.q.�just mindboggling�)

Board Member Dorothea Edgecomb said she thought it was disproportionate to judge the extent of parent involvement simply by one particular piece of paper (roll tape#7 o.q.�concerns of the world�)

Board Member Jennifer Faliero said she was surprised last year when she learned that there are nearly 200 different student clubs that have been created in the District. But while conceding she wasn’t certain about the ppropriateness of some of them, she said the issue before her was parental rights, and parental involvement. And she took a shot at the majority of those supporting GSA’s (roll tape##8 o.q.� and I find that offensive�)

Board Member Candy Olson shared the view of all the Board Members – that they must somehow have more parent involvement. But she didn’t think th epermission form was the answer, and she said the Board must think of ways to engage parents, some of whom care not a whit about what their children are up to (roll tape# 9 o.q.� it gave me a chill�)

The Board voted 4-2 to reject Superintendant Elia’s edict, delighting the supporters of the GSA’s. Jennifer Faliero and Jack Lamb voted no.

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