Student sues high school for right to form Gay-Straight Alliance

Gay-Straight Alliance
Gay-Straight Alliance school bus at Seattle Pride. Photo: Jon Gilbert Leavitt on Flickr

A student at a Buffalo high school has filed a federal lawsuit, with the help of the New York Civil Liberties Union, for the right to form a Gay-Straight Alliance.

The openly gay 18 year-old Byshop Elliott could no long sit idly by, ignoring the reportedly homophobic atmosphere in the school, and said he is suing because, “I just want them to wake up,” he told The Buffalo News.

The lawsuit alleges that McKinley Principal Crystal Boling-Barton has warned students during announcements that they aren’t allowed to bring same-sex dates to the prom, keeps couples tickets reserved for opposite gender pairs, and separates same-sex partners when dancing together.

“Schools should encourage kids who try to make the learning environment more inclusive for other students,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman in a statement. “But LGBTQ students at McKinley have met only discouragement, inaction and homophobia from the school and district charged with supporting them. This goes against everything New York stands for.”

“In an ideal world, you would not have to bring a lawsuit,” Elliott’s lawyer, Robert Hodgson, said. “You would not have to stand up to the people whose job it is to protect you. Byshop shouldn’t have to do that.”

“It speaks to his courage,” Hodgson added, “and how deeply he wants to improve his school for himself, all of his classmates and all of the students who would benefit from a Gay-Straight Alliance there.”

Elliott got a petition going and managed to collect a number of signatures, but it did nothing to convince the administration to let him start a GSA.

“I care a lot about the school, that’s why it’s so disappointing how it’s acted toward LGBTQ students,” Elliott said. “Everyone should have a chance to feel included and excited about high school, including LGBTQ students. I wish this wasn’t still an issue today but it is.”

“I’m not really confrontational,” he continued. “I’m only here for another year, but I want this to last. If I have children, I don’t want them to go through this.”

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