March 21, 2005
Proposed Georgia School Policy Threatens GLBT Students
'Schools shouldn't put up roadblocks to critical support systems for students,' said HRC Vice President for Policy David M. Smith.
WASHINGTON - A new policy under consideration by the Georgia Department of Education that would require parental permission for students to participate in any extracurricular activity threatens gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students, says the Human Rights Campaign. Students will likely be dissuaded from joining support groups like Gay-Straight Alliances if it requires them to disclose their identities to their parents before they are ready.
"Schools shouldn't put up roadblocks to critical support systems for students," said David M. Smith, HRC's vice president for policy and strategy. "GSAs are a safe place for students to help them in their coming out process - which includes help with coming out to parents. If students aren't able to access this support in a confidential way, they won't be able to have a constructive and valuable dialogue with their parents."
The proposed rule is parallel to an initiative introduced in the Georgia General Assembly that supporters admit is targeted toward GSAs and GLBT students. The Department of Education will consider the new policy at a meeting next month.
"Many young people concerned about their parent's reactions look to GSAs to provide information and resources toward understanding their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression," said Smith. "GLBT students are already at higher risk for depression and suicide and creating a barrier to participation in GSAs puts them at further risk."
GLBT student performance and emotional well-being are higher at schools that have established GSAs and safe-schools policies, according to data from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.