After repeatedly being denied approval as an official club, Millbrook High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance has been granted partial recognition by the school’s administration.
Following a meeting with several members of the group, school officials approved the club as a non-curriculum-related student group, said Kelly Hruska, the group’s president. Though they are the only student group with that status, they will be permitted to advertise using school forums, to be included in the school’s yearbook and to have events announced over the PA system or in school news, Hruska said.
“I still have sort of mixed feelings over the whole thing because right now it feels like we are in a category that is separate but equal,” she said. “While it is truly equal right now, and we are being given the same rights as other clubs, the fact that we are alone in the category of “non curriculum-related student groups” is a little concerning to me. While we’ve definitely won this battle, I can still see an outcome where this is not the end of our struggle.”
School officials did not respond to a request for comment.
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While we’ve definitely won this battle, I can still see an outcome where this is not the end of our struggle.
Kelly Hruska, president of Millbrook High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance
The group, formed in 2011, applied for official club status in 2012, 2013 and 2016 but was repeatedly denied on the grounds that it was “not related to the curriculum” and did not qualify as an official club. Because of this feedback, the group did not apply in 2014 and 2015, but decided to appeal the school’s decision in 2017.
In January, members launched a Change.org petition asking for the school to recognize the group as an official club, which was signed by more than 1,500 people.
“I am extremely excited and proud of the students for advocating for themselves,” said Spanish teacher Summer Van Wagnen, the club’s adviser. “However, I am somewhat disheartened by the special categorization of GSA.”
Emerald Fischer, a Millbrook alumna who was heavily involved in the school’s GSA while she was a student, also had mixed feelings.
“It’s very heartwarming to know that the community played such an important part in helping to finally get the club some of the recognition and rights they have always deserved,” Fischer said in an email. “While it is continuously frustrating that the school has found another way to separate the GSA from all of the other clubs, and there are surely some unpleasant implications behind that separation, I’m thankful for the current club members and leaders who continue to fight.”
Fischer added, “I can only imagine the good they will be able to accomplish with these new resources at hand.”
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, an organization that operates the National Association of GSA Networks and works with school clubs.
Hruska, who will graduate in May, first learned about the club as a freshman because several of her friends were involved. She said the club’s new status will make spreading the word much easier.
“The group will be able to reach incoming freshman much more easily,” Hruska said. “I know how important this group is to students. They deserve a safe space like this, and I know that they will continue to advocate for their community.”
Madison Iszler: 919-836-4952; @madisoniszler