By JESSIE L. BONNER
BOISE, Idaho – A legal group claims Idaho’s largest school district rejected a measure to require a parent’s signature for students to participate in school clubs amid pressure from a national organization that promotes equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
But the Meridian School District said Monday the proposal was dropped because the vast majority of their student clubs do not currently require parental permission. The school district’s governing board adopted a new policy on student clubs last week after months of discussions, said district spokesman Eric Exline.
“It is true at one point there was a provision in there requiring parental approval to be in a club,” Exline said. “I’m not sure I would agree that it was dropped amid pressure from anybody. We dropped it because we had never made it requirement before, and going forward we just decided not to require it now.”
The Alliance Defense Fund, an Arizona-based firm that presses faith-based cases in court, issued a statement Monday saying the district was “duped” by gay rights activists into ditching the proposed parental consent policy.
“School districts do not need to give in to activist demands that parents be left ignorant about what their children are exposed to,” said Jeremy Tedesco, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, in a statement.
The group claims the proposal was cut after pressure from Lambda Legal and the Idaho Safe Schools Coalition. Those organizations wrote the district in August, saying the proposed rule would place a burden on already vulnerable students.
While some LGBT students may be able to turn to their families for support, the groups said, this is often not the case.
“We’re very concerned about the high rates of harassment and bullying that LGBT students face. It’s a major, major problem,” Peter Renn, a Lambda Legal staff attorney based in Los Angeles, told The Associated Press on Monday.
Student clubs such as the Gay Straight Alliance help prevent anti-gay hostility, Renn said.
The issue is not new to Idaho. In 2006, House Education Committee Chairman Bob Nonini sponsored a measure to require a parent’s signature for students to participate in school clubs and activities. The measure passed the House in a 35-32 vote, but died in the Senate Education Committee.
The bill came after community members in Coeur d’Alene protested a club for gay and lesbian students and supporters at Lake City High School. Community members called on school administrators to disband the club, but the school’s principal said that wasn’t allowed since the group didn’t disrupt the educational process.
Nonini’s bill would have required that school districts create a form to be sent home with students that would require a parent’s signature for participation. Each school would also have to publish and distribute a list of clubs to parents.