Posted: 10:56 p.m. Thursday, April 4, 2013

Board member speaks against Gay-Straight Alliance week at school


Board member speaks against Gay-Straight Alliance week at school photo
Board member speaks against Gay-Straight Alliance week at school

By Natalie Pasquarella


A student group at a high school in Gaston County is under fire from a school board member.

The school's Gay-Straight Alliance is planning a week to promote tolerance and equality.

One school board member is upset, saying this shouldn't happen during school.

A group of students at Highland School of Technology in Gastonia plan to hold Gay-Straight Alliance week starting April 15th.

Chris Howell, who's also a local pastor, said by phone GSA week would create division in the students' learning environment.

"It creates a whole lot of controversy that I don't believe our school system should have to deal with on an 8-to-3 basis," Howell said.

As part of GSA week, ribbons will be passed out and there will be a hat, as part of the activities. Howell said he's heard from parents and students who are concerned if they don't take part, they'll be looked at as intolerant.

"I've had some students tell that they feel like it could have the adverse effect on them if they do not take these items to support it," Howell said.

Eyewitness News spoke to LGBT community activist Josh Burford, who said Howell's views are absurd.

"It's a false notion that it's divisive because what it actually does is create more community," said Josh Burford.

Burford said the goal of GSA weeks across the country is not to bully kids who don't take part, but to embrace diversity and start conversations.

"The only thing that could actually come of this is actually more conversations, and so no one is forcing anyone to agree or disagree with anything. We're talking about a group of people with a long history, a stable community, who are claiming their own place in that school," Burford said.

Howell stands firm in his stance that GSA week shouldn't be held during school hours and he shoots down criticism that his personal views as a pastor have something to do with his stance.

"I am no more for a GSA week than I would be for a Bible club week or a Christian week of prayer, or any of those activities during the week," Howell said.

As for Highland School of Technology, a spokeswoman told Eyewitness News’ partner at the Gaston Gazette, the GSA's event is within the bounds of the school system's policies.


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