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Tennessee HS student threatened with suspension for attempting to start GSA

Saturday, September 10, 2011

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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Filed under: Tennessee

27 more reader comments:

  1. Woww!

    Posted on Saturday, September 10, 2011 at 8:35pm
  2. This young man is extremely brave and courageous! Kudos to you, Nathan!

    Posted on Saturday, September 10, 2011 at 8:36pm
  3. if i were president…

    Posted on Saturday, September 10, 2011 at 8:36pm
  4. my mom wont even let me join GSA at school… ugh. homophobes…

    Posted on Saturday, September 10, 2011 at 8:37pm
  5. Load of garbage. I hope this principal gets fired for his bigotry and hateful attitude.

    Posted on Saturday, September 10, 2011 at 8:38pm
  6. Dont give up! They cant keep you from starting it. Law says if they reject you they have to close all non school related clubs. I just started one at my school last year. with the help of a teacher

    Posted on Saturday, September 10, 2011 at 8:39pm
  7. Someone please tell me how many more children have to die before this bigotry comes to an end. Also, for the religious fanatics who claim to be “pro-life” where are you? Do the lives of the children being bullied to death matter to you or is it that only fetuses count as life?

    Posted on Saturday, September 10, 2011 at 8:39pm
  8. They need an advisor?? Elect me! I will stand for the GSA! I support this! The harassment needs to end and end now! Its getting stupider by the day that just because a person is not straight, they cant have any rights! They have just as much rights as the next person in line!

    Posted on Saturday, September 10, 2011 at 8:42pm
  9. fucking ridiculous that they threatened to suspend…aren’t schools supposed to support diversity stuff…its sickening

    Posted on Saturday, September 10, 2011 at 8:42pm
  10. Holy shit. I ran into some trouble when I tried to start a GSA at my school, but nothing like this. Homophobes need to get a life already.

    Posted on Saturday, September 10, 2011 at 8:53pm
  11. time for some civil disobedience in TN!

    Posted on Saturday, September 10, 2011 at 8:53pm
  12. Something needs to be done about this dammit. How are they supposed to get proof of someone bullying them? Its their word vs. the bullys. And with a discriminative Principle like that, these kids don’t stand a chance. He needs to be fired from the school system for not treating all students equally and fairly. School are supposed to be SAFE places. unfuckinbelievable

    Posted on Saturday, September 10, 2011 at 8:56pm
  13. My school has a wonderful gay straight alliance :) started be a teacher :) older kids talk to freshmen about it at orientation, and they have meetings and inform the school about things such as April 15′s day of silence :) and many teachers have pink ally triangles on their bullitin boards. However this is in pennsylvania, and only started last year.

    Posted on Saturday, September 10, 2011 at 8:59pm
  14. perhaps the kid should start a petition against his principal hmmm?

    Posted on Saturday, September 10, 2011 at 9:35pm
  15. make it a Facebook petition too lol

    Posted on Saturday, September 10, 2011 at 9:35pm
  16. Red State madness!

    Posted on Saturday, September 10, 2011 at 10:08pm
  17. My heart goes out to them, but I’m glad they have in fact found each other, it can make this sort of stuff easier.

    Posted on Saturday, September 10, 2011 at 10:13pm
  18. Really? I go to a Catholic highschool in one of the not so lgbt-savvy parts of Toronto.
    We have a GSA and strict rules as to not discriminate or you will be expelled.
    Why cant people hop on the rainbow train and accept that not everyone is the same?

    Posted on Sunday, September 11, 2011 at 12:04am
  19. Please sign the petition asking for the Monroe County School system to permit a GSA at Sequoyah High School. Make the petition even more powerful by writing a thoughtful and respectful message about why you are signing. And please ask all your friends to sign as well!

    Petition Link: http://chn.ge/sqhgsa

    You can also post messages of support to the kids on their facebook page:
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Gaystraight-Alliance-Sequoyah-HIGH-School/182724315133815

    Posted on Sunday, September 11, 2011 at 12:22am
  20. The fact that such stories of bravery in the face of blatant discrimination in schools across the country have become widely publicized means two things: this principal just ended his own career by going on record as a bigot, and by standing up for equality this young man just became a hero. I’m sending a letter to the school board to support this student and express my outrage at the administration’s oppressive stance. Who’s with me?!

    Posted on Sunday, September 11, 2011 at 4:25am
  21. What is WRONG with people?!?

    Posted on Sunday, September 11, 2011 at 4:27am
  22. He’s brave. He’s gonna have a good life.

    Posted on Sunday, September 11, 2011 at 5:15am
  23. I have emailed the principal (Maurice Moser, moserm@monroe.k12.tn.us) and director of schools (Mike Lowry, mike@monroek12.org) and have mailed a letter to the chairman of the school board of education (Dr. Larry Stein, 601 Morris Street Sweetwater, TN 37874) to express my support for Nathan Carroll and my outrage at the principal’s actions. I hope others will do the same.

    Posted on Sunday, September 11, 2011 at 6:03am
  24. @Lukas: Not if he gets hurt for this. Perhaps he should spend time pursuing wider political change rather than simply calling upon attention to non-normative sexual tastes.

    Posted on Sunday, September 11, 2011 at 12:48pm
  25. “non-normative sexual tastes.” tastes? that’s like sexual choice right????

    Posted on Sunday, September 11, 2011 at 4:48pm
  26. Paul could you clarity and explain your statement for us?

    Posted on Sunday, September 11, 2011 at 11:03pm
  27. I grew up in Mississippi. The rest of the country can have all the forward-thinking ideals it wants but when you’re stuck in the Bible Belt, it’s like you’re in another country where all that “Yankee” stuff is just something on tv that your preacher rails about on Sunday. In other words, Nathan, I understand how surrounded you are & I think you’ve got major guts & I support you all the way! Don’t let them get inside your head! You are doing the right things!

    Posted on Monday, September 12, 2011 at 7:26am