(Kaylee McGhee, Liberty Headlines) Faculty members of a charter school in Sandpoint, Idaho recently admitted to recruiting students for a secret “gay” club, concealing their activism from parents.
Mary Jensen, principal of Forrest M. Bird Charter School, colluded with community activists to establish a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) club at Sandpoint Jr. High School and admitted they acted under secrecy, according to Liberty Counsel.
“We’re keeping it kind of on the down low because this is North Idaho,” Jensen said in a recording obtained by the nonprofit legal organization. “Kids who wanted to participate in the club did not necessarily want their parents to know.”
School employees even went so far as to hold off-campus meetings with potential GSA students at a local library, without parental consent or involvement.
Jensen admitted the creation of a GSA club had been one of her goals, and that staff members spent months handpicking students they believed should be in the club.
The club came to light when Jensen, along with staff members Michael Bigley and Becky Campbell, invited a student to participate in the club. When the student’s parents found out, they made it clear to the school’s administration they did not want their child involved. The school ignored the parents’ wishes and continued to send the student to GSA meetings during school hours, and on school property.
In a school where parental permission slips, approval, and involvement are deemed standard procedures, Liberty Counsel said the faculty members violated the trust of parents.
“It is outrageous that this school would intentionally undermine parental rights in this manner,” Mat Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, said. “Parents have the fundamental right to know about and direct the activities and associations of their minor children.”
Liberty Counsel argued the creation of the GSA club also broke the Equal Access Act, which regulates student clubs in public schools, and states that a club must be curricular – meaning “the subject matter of the group must be taught, or will soon be taught, in a regularly offered course or if the subject “concerns the body of courses as a whole.”
“Schools may not play games with what is ‘curricular/non-curricular. Whatever arguments the school may raise about ‘combating bullying’ and ‘support,’ these are insufficient to bring the GSA into ‘curricular’ status,” Liberty Counsel said.
According to the legal group, the law prevents schools from endorsing partisan political views and controversial positions. Since the GSA is both, Liberty Counsel argues the school’s administration had no right to establish the club.
“It is as inappropriate for school employees to lead and recruit for the GSA in their official capacities, as it is for school employees to lead another partisan club, like the Young Democrats or Young Republicans,” they said.
Liberty Counsel said if the GSA club is to exist at all, it must be under parental permission and it must be entirely student-led and directed.
“[School officials] have intentionally violated the parental rights of not only Mr. and Mrs. Doe, but the rights of the parents of the other students they have secretly invited to the GSA,” Liberty Counsel said. “The law is clear: parents, not agents of the state, have the right to direct the upbringing and associations of their children.”