Madisonville students fighting to have a Gay Straight Alliance

Madisonville students fighting to have a Gay Straight Alliance

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By JOSH AULT
6 News Reporter

MADISONVILLE (WATE) - Students at Sequoyah High School in Madisonville want to start a Gay Straight Alliance at their school. However, school officials say they are not following policy to get it started.

Nathan Carroll, a senior at SQHS, says there's a big need for a GSA at their high school.

"Just yesterday, students across the room would yell, 'God hates gays,'" said Carroll. "There is not going to be a gay club in this school. We don't deserve it."

Carroll says he has been bullied and sexually harassed for being gay most of his life. He says there are a lot of misconceptions about the GSA.
         
"The Gay Straight Alliance is not a club to talk about sexual orientation," he said. "It's about sexual orientation, but it's not talking about sex in general. It's a support group. It's where you can go and you can talk about how you feel."

Carroll and the other students have approached school officials about starting the GSA, but have been told they cannot.

That is when they started to pass around a petition to get support.
   
"These students have been following policy and they approached the principal," said Linda Sigler, who has two children involved in getting the alliance started. "They've done this petition and now the school is telling them if they continue with the petition, they will be suspended."  

6 News contacted Director of Schools Mike Lowry. He would not comment on camera, but said the students have to get the principal's permission first and then get a faculty sponsor.

If they can't do that, then they can't have GSA on campus.

If these students are successful in getting GSA on campus, they will not be the first. There are already 17 other East Tennessee high schools with GSAs.

One of the high schools is Fulton High School in North Knoxville.

Karyn Storts-Brinks, the GSA sponsor there, organized it five years ago. "It's a place to talk about what it's like to be marginalized or perceived as 'other," she said.

Storts-Brinks says she has seen a positive change at her school since the GSA was implemented.

She has this advice for the Sequoyah High School students. "The most important thing they need to know is their group has a legal right to exists."

The students say they are talking to one faculty member who may become a sponsor. They also say they are going to continue their fight to get the GSA started at SHS.

The Gay Straight Alliance is a national organization with thousands of chapters across the country.

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