HB1727 has an innocuous title: “School boards; policies concerning non-curriculum-related student organizations,’ but when you see what it says and who introduced it and take a look at some recent history, it is revealed for what it really is: an attempt to keep students from participating in Gay-Straight Alliances at school.
The text of the bill reads: “Requires that local school boards obtain express written permission from a parent or legal guardian before any student becomes a member of or attends the meeting of a non-curriculum-related student organization. The permission must clearly evidence that the parent or legal guardian has given informed consent as to the particular student organization.”
On the surface it doesn’t sound bad, but Delegate Lohr, the bill’s chief patron tried last year to prohibit GSA’s in Virginia with the HB1308. Thiat bill sought to “prohibit the use of school facilities by any student club or other student group that encourages or promotes sexual activity by unmarried minor students.” It also provided that the Attorney General’s Office would provide legal defense on behalf of the local school boards.
That bill passed the house but didn’t make it out of the senate. He promised to come back in 2007 with another attempt. And HB1727 is it.
Of course, GSA’s aren’t there to promote sexual activity of any sort. They are there to promote understanding between gay and straight students and to help students who may be questioning their own sexuality have a peer group where they can discuss their issues without fear of reprisals. Delegate Lohr’s intent with this bill is to make it difficult for student’s to participate in GSA’s on the theory that students will either be afraid to tell their parents or that parents will withhold permission. The fact that many students are afraid to tell their parents is one of the main reasons why GSA’s are needed in the first place.
This bill must not become law. Delegate Lohr’s bill would place an extra burden and cost on school systems that are already struggling to make ends meet. Now they have to print and store permission slips each year just because Delegate Lohr doesn’t want students to be able to discuss real issues affecting their own lives. Non-curricular after school activities enrich the lives of many students. Let’s not jeopardize them all just because of some homophobia on the part of Delegate Lohr. Please let your delegate and senator know that you don’t support this bill. You can find who your state senator and delegate are at: http://conview.state.va.us/whosmy.nsf/main?openform.