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Tennessee HS student threatened with suspension for attempting to start GSA

Saturday, September 10, 2011
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MADISONVILLE, Tenn. — Nathan Carroll, a Tennessee high school senior, has been bullied most of his life for being gay. The openly-gay teen attends Sequoyah High School in Madisonville, Tenn., and recently decided a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) is needed at his school.

Nathan Carroll

Nathan started a petition at his school to get support to start the GSA, while kids opposing it started a similar petition.

But despite Nathan’s efforts, and the nearly 150 teens who’ve signed the petition, when he brought it to Principal Maurice Moser, he was threatened with suspension should he proceed in trying to form the GSA.

Additionally, the Principal said that any students found with one of Nathan’s petitions would have the petition torn up and thrown away and that they be sent immediately to his office for further punishment.

Of course, students are legally allowed to start the club should they find an adviser, and Director of Schools Mike Lowry said the students “would be treated fairly,” according to this report by WBIR-TV:

On Friday, I spoke with Principal Moser, who said that students were having verbal arguments about the potential Gay Straight Alliance, and it was “disturbing the educational environment.”

He went on to say that he was exercising his rights as principal to then stop the petitions and all discussions of the GSA forming.

Asked if he also considered bullying a “disturbance to the educational environment,” Moser replied that if a student reports it and has sufficient proof that they were bullied, then the bullies are “dealt with accordingly.”

Moser said the process to form a club requires a faculty sponsor, and that students were having trouble finding one for the GSA.

He then explained that a faculty sponsor for several clubs had transferred schools this summer, and that he had spent a good deal of time recruiting faculty members to fill in the holes left by the former faculty member.

But when asked why he did not assist the students in finding a sponsor for the GSA, Moser said wouldn’t “force” any faculty member to sponsor the GSA, that he only assisted existing clubs, and could never help find a sponsor for a new club.

Moser’s disdain for the students trying to start a GSA came through several times during our conversation, and he implied more than once that his rights as a principal of a high school trumped the rights of students trying to fight bullying and anti-gay harassment.

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