PHILADELPHIA - On Wednesday, March 27, the Chambersburg Area School District (CASD) voted 5-4 to allow the formation of a Gay Straight Alliance at the Chambersburg Areas High School. The vote rescinds the school board's previous 5-4 decision on February 27 to deny official recognition of the club.
"We are delighted that the Chambersburg Area School District has chosen to do the right thing and allow the formation of a Gay Straight Alliance," Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. "We congratulate the students who stood up for themselves and challenged the school board's initial decision."
On March 12, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and Equality Pennsylvania sent a letter threatening the CASD with legal action on behalf of a group of high school students involved with the formation of the GSA. Last week, the school district temporarily granted official status to the GSA until the school board could vote.
"Schools are often hostile environments for gay and transgender youth who experience bullying and harassment in alarming numbers. But in schools with a Gay Straight Alliance, students report feeling safer," said Ted Martin, executive director of Equality Pennsylvania. "This decision by the Chambersburg School District is an important victory for gay and transgender students statewide and a critical step toward ensuring that all young people are respected in our schools. If there's one thing we can all agree on, it's that all students need to feel safe at school in order to learn."
The federal Equal Access Act requires public schools to treat all non-curricular student clubs equally. Federal courts have consistently upheld the Equal Access Act's protection for students wishing to form GSAs.