Corpus Christi school district says it will ban all clubs rather than allowing Gay Straight Alliance

Nikki Peet

The other day, we told you how Flour Bluff High School in Corpus Christi is refusing to allow 17-year-old student Nikki Peet (right) to start a chapter of the Gay Straight Alliance. The school’s decision not only violates federal law, but it also signals that officials care nothing about the safety of LGBTQ students.

The federal Equal Access Act, originally designed to protect student Bible study groups, dictates that if a school allows one non-curricular club to meet on campus, it must allow any non-curricular club to meet on campus. In other words, if a school allows a chess club, it must also allow a Gay Straight Alliance.

In this case, Flour Bluff High School has been allowing the Fellowship of Christian Athletes to meet on campus. But rather than simply allowing the GSA, the district has apparently decided to kick the Fellowship of Christian Athletes off campus, and bar all other other non-curricular clubs. Wow.

The Corpus Christi Caller-Times reports:

Superintendent Julie Carbajal said she has asked the Fellowship of Christian Athletes to meet off campus while the district studies the legality of allowing the club while disallowing a club supporting homosexual students. She said there is no chance the district will approve the proposed Gay-Straight Alliance, but she will make sure all other school clubs are following the district’s policy.

“We need to be fair and equitable to all,” she said.

In disallowing the Gay-Straight Alliance, the district said it didn’t have to follow a federal law mandating schools offer equal opportunities for all students to organize. The district approved a policy in 2005 that did not allow student clubs not tied to curriculum to meet on campus.

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which has been meeting on campus, may not be adhering to that policy, Carbajal said. She said the district is consulting with its attorneys on the matter.

“We feel like we need to follow the policy in place,” she said. “If we’ve made any wrong judgments then we have to fix that because we are not looking at changing our policy.”

Students from the GSA at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi were tentatively planning to protest Flour Bluff’s refusal to allow the GSA on Monday. However, it’s unclear whether that protest will go forward now that the district says it plans to ban all non-curricular clubs.

In the meantime, Change.org has launched a petition calling on the school to allow the GSA. Sign it by going here. If you’d like to contact school officials directly, the info is here.

—  John Wright

Spokesman says DISD too busy with budget cuts to discuss trangender homecoming issue

A rally in support of Andy Moreno at North Dallas High School in October. Since then we haven’t heard much from DISD, or the LGBT community, about trying to come up with a policy that would avoid such controversies in the future.

Here’s the reply we received late Monday from DISD spokesman Jon Dahlander, after we inquired about whether district officials have discussed a possible policy change related to gender and homecoming elections in response to last year’s controversy at North Dallas High School:

“I don’t know if there have been additional discussions regarding that particular issue. Most of our time right now is devoted to paying attention to what is taking place in Austin and planning for next year’s budget accordingly. A $253 million budget deficit would wipe out a lot of things in our school district. If I hear of something, I’ll let you know.”

We certainly sympathize with Dahlander and other DISD officials as they try to deal with the impending budget crisis, but we also hope his statement indicates that the district is open to taking up the transgender homecoming issue as soon as possible. After all, it’s been almost five months since transgender girl Andy Moreno was denied a chance to run for homecoming queen at NDHS. The district should be commended for, in the meantime, passing a fully inclusive anti-bullying policy that is the first of its kind in the state. But this doesn’t mean the district’s work — or the LGBT community’s work — is done. For one thing, we need to ensure that the anti-bullying policy is properly implemented and enforced. And for another, while the anti-bullying policy includes gender identity and expression, the district’s employment nondiscrimination policy does not. In other words, it’s now against DISD policy for a student to bully another student for being transgender, but it’s not against DISD policy for the district to fire a teacher for being transgender. And, apparently, it isn’t against DISD policy for an administrator to discriminate against a student for being transgender, as in the case of Andy Moreno. On Tuesday night I sat in a Stonewall Democrats meeting and listened to a gay student talk about the resistance he’s faced from administrators in trying to establish a GSA at Woodrow Wilson High School. So while the budget situation is critical, let’s also remember that for some LGBTQA youth, the issues we’re raising could be a matter of life and death.

—  John Wright

New GSA is opening doors — and minds — at Navarro College

Members of P.R.I.S.M. say new group is being well-received by administration, most classmates

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

LEADING THE WAY  |  Officers of P.R.I.S.M., the new gay-straight alliance at Navarro College in Corsicana, meet each Tuesday. Officers are, back row from left, Kristen Joyner, assistant historian; Mauricio Palacios, treasurer; Max Tucker, prime historian; Chasidy Merida, public relations chair, and Jessica Martinez, secretary; and front row from left, Juan Tenorio, president; Brandi Collard, faculty sponsor, and Micheal Dickens, spiritual advisor.
LEADING THE WAY | Officers of P.R.I.S.M., the new gay-straight alliance at Navarro College in Corsicana, meet each Tuesday. Officers are, back row from left, Kristen Joyner, assistant historian; Mauricio Palacios, treasurer; Max Tucker, prime historian; Chasidy Merida, public relations chair, and Jessica Martinez, secretary; and front row from left, Juan Tenorio, president; Brandi Collard, faculty sponsor, and Micheal Dickens, spiritual advisor.

Think of Corsicana, Texas, the county seat of Navarro County located about 55 miles south of Dallas on I-45, and “liberal enclave” isn’t likely to be the first description that comes to mind.

The town of about 25,000 is known as home of the Collin Street Bakery, famous around the country for its fruitcakes. But Corsicana is also home to the main campus of Navarro College, which now has what its members call the first gay-straight alliance to be formed — and recognized as an official campus organization — at a Texas community college.

Members of the group and faculty advisor Brandi Collard recently answered a few questions about the alliance for Dallas Voice.

Dallas Voice: Who came up with the idea of starting a gay-straight alliance at Navarro College? What is it called?

P.R.I.S.M.: Our GSA was truly a collaborative idea, and several people were instrumental in starting the group. The organization is called P.R.I.S.M., which stands for Promoting Respect In Sexual Minorities.

DV: Why did the group start? Was there a specific event, or series of events that led to it being started?

P.R.I.S.M.: We started the group because we wanted to form an organization that would provide support for LGBT students and cultivate lasting positive relations between the LGBT and straight communities. No specific event or series of events triggered the formation of the club.

DV: When was P.R.I.S.M. started?

P.R.I.S.M.: We began developing the framework for the group in late August of this year. We became an official campus organization on Sept. 20.

DV: Have you encountered any opposition from administrators? From other students? From the community around the college?

P.R.I.S.M.: We have received nothing but support from the administration. We have had a few cases of individualized harassment of P.R.I.S.M. members by other students, but nothing our members haven’t been able to handle on their own. The community response has been mostly positive so far.

DV: How has the school administration helped or hurt in forming the group?

P.R.I.S.M.: We have been treated exactly the same as any other organization — with fairness and equality.

DV: How many members are in P.R.I.S.M. and how often do you meet?

P.R.I.S.M.: We currently have 40 members, and we’re still growing. The club meets every Thursday afternoon, with an additional meeting on Tuesday just for officers and our advisor.

DV: What kind of activities have you done already?

P.R.I.S.M.: We had a booth at the Club Fair on campus where we signed up new members and handed out rainbow awareness ribbons and bags of Skittles with our meeting info on them. The members are currently selling candy bars as a fundraiser.

DV: What kind of activities do you have planned?

P.R.I.S.M.: We have a “Partners with You” night planned at the Cotton Patch Café. The restaurant will donate 10 percent of participating patrons’ total bills to the group. We’ll also have a booth at the Navarro College Homecoming post-game festivities. Our biggest event so far is a “Science Fiction Double Feature” at the end of October. We have an opportunity to volunteer with a pet adoption event for the local animal shelter in November. We will also be participating in Phi Theta Kappa’s holiday food drive, and we’re planning a holiday bake sale near the end of the semester.

DV: What can people in the LGBT community outside Navarro College do to support your organization?

P.R.I.S.M.: People can help us a lot by contributing to our fundraisers and supporting our events. We’re also looking for guest speakers to inspire and encourage the members of the club.

DV: What else do people need to know about the GSA?

P.R.I.S.M.: We at P.R.I.S.M. want to emphasize that we are an alliance. There is a misconception on campus that we are simply a “gay club,” but we’re so much more. We’re a group that promotes awareness, respect, and unity for all.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 22, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Arlington high school mourns 'GSA Momma'

AJ Fischer
Abbie Jo “A.J.” Fischer

Abbie Jo (A.J.) Fischer, faculty sponsor for the Gay Straight Alliance at Arlington’s James Bowie High School, died at her home over the weekend, according to an e-mail I received this morning from Pedro G. Calderon, founder and president of the GSA.

Calderon wrote: “We might have lost a wonderful woman, teacher, friend, hippie, ally and GSA Momma, but we have gained a beautiful angel!”

You can see the GSA’s tribute to Fischer on the GSA website.

According to an obituary in The Dallas Morning News, Fischer was 57 years old. The obit says she is survived by her mother, Elaine Smith, her brother, Douglas Smith, “a loving extended family, many friends and her beloved cats.”

She will be cremated and her ashes distributed according to her wishes. There will be no memorial service.

—  admin

Talking about gay clergy in the UMC

This just in from Fort Worth: The Texas Wesleyan Gay Straight Alliance will be host for a presentation featuring a representative from MoSAIC — Methodist Students for an All-Inclusive Church — who will talk about giving full clergy rights to openly gay and lesbian clergy candidates, and Dr. Bruce McDonald, a religion professor at Texas Wesleyan, who opposes such action.

Organizers stress the event is NOT a debate but is simply an effort to “educate all those who attend on one of the most sensationalized dilemmas facing the UMC today.”

The event will be held at noon on Friday, April 25, on the first floor of West Library in the Orientation Room.

The university is at 1201 Wesleyan St. in Fort Worth. You can get directions at the Web site, www.txwesleyan.edu.

—  admin