LGBT student group approved
Clintonville School Board votes unanimously in favor
By Erik Buchinger
The Clintonville School Board unanimously approved the creation of a new lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender student group at the high school.
Clintonville High School sophomore Mar Allen addressed the school board during its meeting Monday, Oct. 23, about establishing a local GSA group.
GSA stands for Genders and Sexualities Alliance Network and is formerly known as Gay-Straight Alliance.
“I am a person in the LGBT community myself, and I am looking to create a safe place and a community between the LGBT students at our school plus our allies,” Allen said.
Allen said she is the leader of the club, which is entirely student run with high school teacher Julie Rohrer as the adviser.
After researching more on the topic, Allen said she is aware of potential controversy.
“I did a ton of research on the proper ways to facilitate GSA,” Allen said. “I quickly found out there was a possibility of controversy regarding the group, so I figured I would bring it up with [the board] and make sure there aren’t any misunderstandings.”
Allen said she hopes GSA will unite the community despite people’s differences.
“Through this group, I hope to educate and encourage people about the LGBT community in addition to advocating for this community,” Allen said. “A key component will be focusing on the alliance among all and in finding ways to create unity despite our differences.”
In the spring, Allen asked Clintonville High School Principal Lance Bagstad how to go about creating the group, and he said the group needed an adviser.
“I do want to praise Mar on how she approached this,” Bagstad said.
Bagstad said he is in support of a club that encourages other students.
“I will publicly state I am very much in favor or having a group that is supportive of any of our students in our school district,” Bagstad said. “I compliment Mar in taking a lead on that and really in some cases putting herself out there and saying, ‘I’m willing to start a group to support other students within our school community.’ So, well done.”
Rohrer was unable to make the board meeting, but Bagstad read her statement to the board.
“The students who created this group did so to provide a safe place for students to express ideas, to learn more about themselves and others, and to be a positive influence in their community,” Bagstad read. “Because these are admirable goals that we should strive to meet in any student group, we hope the GSA will not be met with any criticism or controversy. However, we know that misconceptions and differing opinions about gender and sexual identity may lead members of the community to call with questions. If that should happen, you now have information about the organization as well as the legalities surrounding such a group.”
Bagstad said shortly after posting the LGBT announcement to the website, he received an email asking if the high school was the correct place for the club.
“I did get an email probably about 30 seconds after it actually hit the website through our scrolling announcements that there was a feeling that it may not be a place for such an organization,” Bagstad said. “I simply responded by saying it will be a topic at the board meeting on Monday night and also shared our Equal Access statement that shows up on all of our websites and is part of board policy.”
Allen said she has registered the club for the Wisconsin and national GSA network.