Education

Millbrook High students petition to get official recognition for LGBT club

Poster created by members of the GSA.
Poster created by members of the GSA. Courtesy of Kelly Hruska

Students at Millbrook High School have launched an online petition calling on the school’s administration to grant the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance official club status.

According to a Change.org petition signed by more than 700 people, the group formed in 2011 and has applied for official club status in 2012, 2013 and 2016. The group was repeatedly denied on the grounds that it is “not related to the curriculum” and therefore does not qualify as an official club. Based on this feedback, the group did not apply in 2014 and 2015.

Because it is not recognized as an official club, the group is not permitted to advertise using school forums, to be included in the school’s yearbook or to have its events announced over the PA system or in school news, according to the petition. The alliance is currently classified as a “student-led organization.”

The group plans at a Jan. 24 meeting to appeal the school’s decision and to offer what it says is proof that it is aligned with the curriculum, said the group’s president, Kelly Hruska. She wrote the petition.

Hruska said the petition was started to show that there is student, faculty and parent support behind the group.

“We wanted to dispel the myth that parents aren’t in support of the club,” Hruska said. “We had no idea it would blow up like this!”

She added, “While we are hopeful, we would not be surprised if the decision remains unchanged.”

School officials did not respond to requests for comment.

A Gay-Straight Alliance is “a student-run club, typically in a high school or middle school, which provides a safe place for students to meet, support each other, talk about issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, and work to end homophobia and transphobia,” according to the Gay-Straight Alliance Network of California, a group that operates the National Association of GSA Networks and works with school clubs.

“It is imperative that Millbrook High School reconsider its decision and grant the Gay-Straight Alliance official club status,” Hruska wrote in the petition. “By recognizing the GSA, Millbrook would reach students who most need help in feeling accepted and safe at school ... discourage hateful behavior and create safe spaces for students who are subject to hate and discrimination.”

The petition also notes that officially accepting the club would “send a clear message to not only the LGBT students but all students at Millbrook: you matter.”

Other Wake County high schools have GSA groups listed on their websites, including Wakefield, Apex High, Athens Drive and Apex Friendship. Some high schools have similar clubs listed, such as Broughton’s Sexuality and Gender Acceptance club, Cary High’s Queer-Straight Alliance club and Fuquay-Varina High’s Safe Space club. It is unclear whether these groups are official clubs recognized by the school or student-led organizations.

Emerald Fischer was heavily involved in Millbrook’s GSA while she was a student. She organized events with other schools, marched in parades and hosted information sessions, spreading the details about GSA’s activities via word-of-mouth.

“The GSA is a positive force at Millbrook that works hard to spread positivity and acceptance, and it’s very disheartening to see them be pushed aside, year after year,” said Fischer, who graduated in 2014. “The rejection is continuously telling all of these wonderful people that the club they hold dear isn’t as important as other non-academic clubs, that they aren’t as valuable, that they don’t deserve to be seen and heard in this school, despite the loud and lengthy support from students and teachers alike.

“It’s frustrating and unacceptable, to say the absolute least, and not the best precedent for a school to have regarding its treatment of LGBT people.”

Madison Iszler: 919-836-4952; @madisoniszler

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