Then five of the nine voted against having a Gay Straight Alliance at Chambersburg Area Senior High School.The GSA Club vote was tabled at the January school board meeting citing a concern in wording of the group's constitution. The proposed constitution, which organizers took from the National GSA, said the club would select its advisers. The board argued that it is policy that school administration recommend the advisers and the board votes on it.

Audience members tonight asked the board to allow the club to form. "Students need a place to talk safely," Matthew Busillo, one of the advisers planning to mentor the new club, told the school board during the opportunity for audience members to speak to matters on the agenda. He said teens who are gay, bisexual or transgender often do not have anyone outside of school who understands them and supports them. "Is this need being addressed? It's not. They need a place to feel safe, dispel myths, grow and prosper," Busillo said.

Shippensburg educator Stephanie Metz, a Chambersburg resident, pointed out that Shippensburg schools have had a GSA for eight years, even though is it smaller and less diverse than the Chambersburg district. "Do not promote ignorance by voting 'no.' Narrow-minded viewpoints seem to be pervasive on this board," she said. As a taxpayer, she said she also does not want to see her tax dollars used on a court case, because the equal opportunity for groups to form is part of the constitution.

Kevin Faust, a Chambersburg graduate who served in the military for several years and now is a student at Penn State Mont Alto, also gave his perspective on the topic. He is a member of the Allies Club, which is the college version of GSA. "The LGBT community is widely disenfranchised," he said. At Allies, the members do not identify themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, he said, but the goal is to be "empathetic and inform.""Stop the indifference. Give them their club," Faust urged.

Once the item to approve the GSA club at CASHS was open to board discussion, board member Joan Smith said that with all the discussion about bullying and zero tolerance for bullying within the district, "apparently in some places the bullying policy hasn't been in place." She said the board needs to address its bullying policy and make it stricter.

Board member Kim Amsley-Camp said she'd contacted the Pennsylvania Association of School Boards about the GSA club and was schooled in the district's obligation to allow it under the 1984 Federal Equal Access Act. Essentially, if the district allows one group to form and use school property/resources for its meetings, it must allow equal access to other groups.

Carl Barton said he fields parent calls about bullying in the schools, and that those cases fall into the categories of students being bullied because of special needs, physical disability, being overweight or being "anorexic." He said he only heard of one bullying case loosely associated to the student's sexual orientation.

Board member Norm Blowers said the club's structure as proposed is not designed to address bullying.

School board members Stanley Helman, Fred Rice, Joe Tosten, [Carl] Barton and [Norm] Blowers voted against allowing the club in the high school. [Joan] Smith, [Kim] Amsley-Camp, Anne Boryan and Phillip Miracle voted in favor of it.

Gary's thoughts: Club participation is VOLUNTARY. If a student has no interest in the Gay Straight Alliance, DON'T JOIN. But as a school board, you need to put aside any personal homophobic views and recognize that there's a need for such a club...if for no other reason than the students themselves have asked for it.

Some students evidently feel the need for a safe space or haven where they can associate with other like-minded students.

Sadly, I see this as just another example where the white, Christian majority gets to project their values onto others and make it stick via majority rule. This is the same community that was incensed at Christmas over being forced to move from public property a Christmas manger scene of the baby Jesus, when an atheist group also requested public space for their display.

Rather than grant an additional display to the atheist group, the town council voted for no displays at all, and the manger scene was relocated to a nearby church.

UPDATE: I should add that both the Student Council and the administration support the club--it's the school board that vetoed the group.  I'd be shocked if a lawsuit does not follow.