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Feb 14 2014

NC School Tries to Block SSA Club

Here’s yet another example of a clueless school administration that doesn’t know the law and wants to prevent students from forming a secular club, this time in Waynesville, North Carolina. The assistant principal is refusing to let a student form an SSA club, in direct contravention of well-established law.

At Pisgah High School, a battle is brewing over the legal right of students to create communities for their nonreligious peers. Four months ago, an eager student attempted to form a club for secular students, only to find their efforts thwarted by a recalcitrant administration.

After first meeting with Assistant Principal Connie Weeks, the student was told that Weeks needed to “look into” the formation of the group. At subsequent meetings, the student was told by Weeks that they should just join a different club, because the secular club didn’t “fit in” to the community at Pisgah High School, and there were no faculty sponsors available—despite the Equal Access Act stating that if a sponsor couldn’t be found, the administration is required to assign one. Pisgah High School has more than thirty student groups, many “non-curricular”, so this student didn’t think there would be any issue getting approval for a secular group on campus.

Knowing their rights were being violated, the student reached out to the Secular Student Alliance, a national non-profit organization that empowers high school and college students to build communities for nonreligious students. The SSA attempted to reach out to the school with the letter below written by High School Specialist Andrew Cheadle-Ford. However, the administrations ignored the letter.

“We always attempt to resolve situations like this by amicably informing the administrators of the rights of their secular students,” said August E. Brunsman IV, Executive Director of the SSA. “However, in this case, the administrators were entirely unresponsive. We have reached out to our partners at the Freedom From Religion Foundation to get the aid of their legal team in making sure secular students at Pisgah High School don’t face unequal treatment and discrimination.”

The student’s cause has been taken up by both the FFRF and the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina. These groups have reached out with the letter below to the superintendent of Haywood County Schools, the district where Pisgah High School is located, after months of non-response from the administration. The FFRF and ACLU of North Carolina are still awaiting a response.

If the school doesn’t wake up and follow the law, they’re going to get sued and they’re going to lose.

12 comments

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  1. 1
    Chiroptera

    And remember, kids, students wanting to form a club for secular students is persecution against Christians!

  2. 2
    D. C. Sessions

    Approving that club sounds like a pain in the ass for the school administration. Flak from parents, flak from other students, and especially flak from the poor faculty sponsor (who will in turn become persona non grata in town.) No upside.

    On the other hand, getting sued? Admiration for Standing Up for Jesus. And Democracy! The Will of We the People! Any downside is going to be paid for by the taxpayers, who will thus share in the JesusLove. It’s all good.

  3. 4
    The Other Lance

    Ah can hear the “Deliverance” banjos in Waynesville all the way up here in Pennsylvania!

  4. 5
    Phillip IV

    The assistant principal is refusing to let a student form an SSA club

    Perhaps it’s just too many letters – I wouldn’t be surprised if the vice-principal was much more amendable to the idea of a “SS club” on campus…

  5. 7
    Scr... Archivist

    Haywood County and Waynesville are almost completely white. The county is predominantly Southern Baptist and is in the bottom 20% of counties when measuring religious diversity. Haywood County has high religious participation per capita, at 71.4% religious penetration. However, it has only 25 religious congregations per 10,000 people.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2013/12/12/religion-in-americas-states-and-counties-in-6-maps/

    This development does not really surprise me.

  6. 8
    magistramarla

    The students who wanted to form a GSA club in the high school where I was teaching in Texas faced the same problems. They were meeting on their own around a table in the cafeteria after school, but the administrators gleefully told them that they couldn’t meet without a sponsor.
    The students asked several teachers, but were turned down. Finally, one who was a Latin student of mine thought to ask me. I happily agreed to be their sponsor. The administrator had me to fill out some paperwork and thanked me for “babysitting the troublemakers”. I told him that I planned to take the mentorship of the group quite seriously. They were a great group of kids, and I’m still in touch with a few of them five years later.
    I truly didn’t care what the rest of the faculty thought. They had already figured out that the “prayer chain” e-mails that were sent to me were immediately deleted, I refused to meet with them for prayer before and after school and I walked past the “meet you at the flagpole” prayer group without acknowledgement.
    I didn’t fit in and didn’t care, since we were planning on a military move out of state anyway. To me, those kids in my classes and those in my GSA group were much more important. That’s why we are there as teachers, right?

  7. 9
    Phillip IV

    rationalinks @ #6:

    I had an Impala SS back in the day. I found that the other guys driving SS’s were kind of not very cool to hang out with, not sure there’s much appeal in that club. That’s what we are talking about, right?

    Ah yes, the Impala SS. Great car. You can even install a gun rack. Then it’s a Waffen-SS.

    But I meant something different, actually. The vice-principal probably objects to the club because it’s a SSA = same-sex attraction club. If they called themselves just SS, same-sex, club, with the attraction only implied, they’d be like the YMCA, and thus unobjectionable.

  8. 10
    dogmeat

    When students asked me to sponsor the SSA club at our school there was grumbling about the club and comments about how such a club shouldn’t be allowed. My reply was that those grumbling and making statements against the club proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the club was not just a good idea, but desperately needed.

    I was already a “super ally” of the GSA and had pointed out that the Young Americans 9/11 memorial couldn’t be mandatory, so really, who was left for me to piss off? ;o)

  9. 11
    Ichthyic

    he vice-principal probably objects to the club because it’s a SSA = same-sex attraction club. If they called themselves just SS, same-sex, club, with the attraction only implied, they’d be like the YMCA, and thus unobjectionable.

    lolwut?

    I’m hoping you’re implying the principal is the one stupid enough to confuse the acronym for something it isn’t.

  10. 12
    Phillip IV

    Ichthyic @ #11:

    lolwut?

    I’m hoping you’re implying the principal is the one stupid enough to confuse the acronym for something it isn’t.

    Yeah, that’s what I was (not seriously) implying.

    But, thinking about it again, he might more likely parse SSA as Satanist/Sodomite Assembly. For a fundie mindset, secular and sodomite are basically spelling variants of satanist.

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