Seriously, Who Does A Gay Teen Have To Petition To Get A GSA Around Here

Exactly one month ago, we told you about a South Carolina high school who was so dead set against allowing a GSA that they were considering cutting ALL extra-curricular activities just to shut it down. In the end, it was recognized as too extreme a measure, and the administration gave up that tactic. That’s not stopping Texas, though!

Texas’s Flour Bluff High School is so intent on denying high school senior Nikki Peet the ability to start a GSA that they’ve cut every single student group on campus. Dr. Julie Carbajal, the school’s superintendent, has made repeated statements that there is “no chance” a GSA will ever happen at Flour Bluff. Nikki first made her request for a GSA four months ago, and despite honoring every requirement for a student looking to create a new group on campus, she was repeatedly denied. The school’s reticence led to more and more headlines each day – prohibiting the formation of a GSA isn’t just unethical and bigoted, it’s against the law.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the ACLU of Texas, the school district is breaking the law – specifically the Equal Access Act, passed by Congress in 1984. The Equal Access Act requires federally-funded schools to offer fair opportunities for students to form student-led extracurricular groups, regardless of their religious, political and philosophical leanings.  For years, Flour Bluff High School has allowed extracurricular clubs (including the Fellowship of Christian Athletes) to meet on campus with seemingly no issue – until now.

Finally the only recourse they could find to deny these students the community they wanted was removing student groups entirely from the school. This is not only appalling in that it demonstrates that these adults are willing to sacrifice resources and support for thousands of kids just to ensure that the ones who are gay aren’t getting any; the ACLU says this is an “unlawful prior restraint on Nikki’s speech.”  Carbajal says, of course, that the school is entirely within its rights; she says that it approved a policy in 2005 that gave it the right to refuse clubs’ formation if they weren’t tied to curriculum. This is also what Summerville High in South Carolina claimed – apparently the Zombie Appreciation Club had more academic merit than everyone was giving it credit for. There’s also some clear parallels to the Constance McMillen prom debacle – by taking privileges away from all students in order to deny things to the queer ones, it creates an atmosphere of blame and resentment, where straight students may blame and punish their gay peers, believing that it’s their fault they’ve been deprived of the Chess Club and Prom Committee when in fact it’s the fault of a homophobic administration. As Peet herself says, “It’s going to bring a lot of hate and animosity to the school because now people are going to be like, the people who are for the GSA, they’re the ones who stopped the other clubs. So we’re kind of being blamed for it,”

There’s still action being taken against Flour Bluff, however, and with the hard work of activists they may be forced to admit their wrongdoing. The ACLU has sent a demand letter to the school giving them until Wednesday, March 9 to allow a GSA on campus or face legal action, and the Texas Civil Rights Project is thinking along the same lines.

Harrington [of the Texas Civil Rights Project] told Six News “We will simply file a lawsuit in federal court, or we could also file a complaint with the office of civil rights and have the school district investigated for compliance with federal law.” He says Flour Bluff’s choice to ban all non-academic clubs from meeting on campus won’t get them out of hot water. “They’re doing this in retaliation. The fact that this group came forward for certification or for approval. So it doesn’t much help them at this point to play this kind of game,”

There’s also a protest planned outside the school on Friday, March 5 for 9 am. Attending will be Paul Rodriguez of the Gay-Straight Alliance at Texas A&M, and hopefully supportive members of the community. You can attend if you live in the area; otherwise, sign this petition from Change.org to let the Flour Bluff school administrators that the nation is watching, and we won’t let them hurt our kids because of their own hangups about homosexuality.


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Rachel

Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1142 articles for us.

24 Comments

  1. the only good thing about this is that is stumbles on its own stupidity to a degree where it’s impossible for any reasonable person to understand their logic. There is none.

  2. Also, with all the $ they are throwing at the drivel that counts as “academic knowledge” or “scholarship” these days, the expenditure on the GSA should amount to, oh, .00000000000000000000000000003 % of the total budget. They will fund the construction of a football stadium, which has fuck all with useful learning.

  3. i feel like there was a thing i saw recently where this guy was talking about how everyone when he says he’s from texas is like oH I LIKE AUSTIN b/c that’s like all they can say about it ohhh i think it was from This American Life. That’s where it was from. Maybe the holiday stories episode. Podcast. IDK. Anyhoo, where was I

  4. my school always played their school in the playoffs. we always lost. this enrages me x2. #texasfootball #neverforget

    ALSO, i just want to say as a texas apologizer, that austin is really kind of awesome. UNICORN TATTOOS ON EVERY WAITRESS. just sayin’.

    • But GSAs don’t hafta be only the gay kids – mine wasn’t. It was also well-meaning straight girls, a straight girl whose moms were gay, etc. And one well-meaning straight boy (go him!)

      My school was homophobic enough that the general consensus among the school population was that the GSA was all straight, because there were evidently no gay kids in our school at all. But it was still a place of refuge for the invisible gay kids, like me & most of my friends.

  5. i don’t even understand the comments on some of these news articles from the students’ parents. what is wrong with people? i don’t understand…it makes me so sad. how can people still think this crap and be so ignorant.

  6. I didn’t even know what a GSA was til I got out of high school. Texas hides things like that though. Plus Quinlan is insanely small. I should get my sister to start one, she’s a freshman this year…I can live out everything I ever wanted in high school just like a good sister…

  7. When I grow up I want to have a bus painted with rainbows so I can drive all around the country and rescue the queer kids who would come live with me in lefty liberal Seattle. At my school, there was no spirit week but there was a gender fluidity week. It makes me sad how unique that experience is.

  8. my school has a GSA but our current head is not appealing to the larger demographic of homosexual and homosexual supporting students, almost all the members are her friends aka the kids who study classics (latin, greek) the rest don’t want to join because it is portrayed as a lame club so in 2 years when she graduates i will become head. FIRST THE GSA, THEN THE WORLD
    ps im in canada

  9. I live in SC, and graduated in 1999. I was one of four out students in my entire high school, and it was hell. They do shit like this in the bible belt all the time. The fanatical religious right runs everything.We tried every year for four years for a GSA and they refused us. There is still no GSA at my high school. They don’t care who they punish, just since the gay kids are invisible.

    I applaud Nikki Peet and the ACLU for what they are doing. Hope they win.

    • Are you kidding me, that’s insane! :( I’m in England just outside of London and such things are unheard of. GSA’s seem like a weird concept to me, and I’ve always assumed that the reason they have them in America is because homophobia is so much more prevalent there. Then again the concept of anyone being ‘out and proud’ at school is alien to me. Anyone who happened to be/look queer tended to get the silent treatment. The lower school was all girls’s though so it was bitchiness and not outright homophobia. I don’t know how a GSA would even work here with nobody mentioning the ‘gay’ word ever. I know the teacher’s got leaflets on it, but since they didn’t see it as a problem nothing was ever done. *sigh* [I think schools are smaller here though, about 1000, so only half a dozen would ever turn up]

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