Chesterfield , VA – The ACLU of Virginia today commended the Chesterfield County School Board for a proposed policy that would guarantee equal treatment for all student clubs, but the civil liberties group also warned county officials against approving an anticipated amendment to the policy that would ban Gay-Straight Alliances and similar student organizations.
“By and large the proposed policy is a great improvement over the existing policy and clearly protects the right of students to form Gay-Straight Alliances in Chesterfield County schools,” said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis. “However, the school board must reject any amendment to the proposed policy that would discriminate against Gay-Straight Alliances.”
The anticipated amendment to the policy, which will reportedly be offered by representatives of the Family Foundation at the school board’s meeting next Tuesday, would prevent the formation of any student club whose objectives are “in conflict with the principle of sexual abstinence before marriage or the principle of confining sexual activity to marriage between one man and one woman.”
Additional concerns outlined in a letter from ACLU legal director Rebecca K. Glenberg to Chesterfield School Board Chair Marshall W. Trammell, Jr. include a ban in the proposed policy on “sexually explicit” speech. The ACLU believes that such language could be interpreted by school officials to prevent student clubs from addressing legitimate and salient issues such as reproductive rights and sexual assault.
The ACLU also asks that the policy be amended to require school officials to accept or reject student applications to form clubs within 30 days of receiving them, and to provide an explanation in writing whenever an application is rejected.
“The most common complaint from students trying to form clubs, especially Gay-Straight Alliances, is that school officials sit on their applications indefinitely,” added Willis. “The Chesterfield policy will be much more effective -- and a great many misunderstandings avoided -- if it sets a deadline for responding to applications and requires school officials to provide an explanation when an application is rejected.”
A copy of the ACLU’s letter, sent earlier today, can be found at http://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/20060310-Chesterfield-Anti-GSA-Policy.pdf.
Contact: Kent Willis, Office: 804/644-8022