TN School Figures Out A Way To Stop GSAs—Have Teachers Refuse To Sponsor Them

When Sequoyah High School senior Nathan Carroll tried to find a teacher to sponsor a gay-straight alliance (GSA) at his school, all the teachers said they were too busy. He met twice with the principal to no avail and so he decided to start a school petition that eventually got 150 signatures from his school’s approximately one-thousand students. But when another student started a petition against Carroll’s GSA, the principal announced that he would destroy any petitions and punish students caught with them, as they “disrupt the educational environment.” There’s a sick genius to his logic.

Most schools make the mistake of outright forbidding GSAs because of their supposed focus on sex, but instead Sequoyah is playing a procedural game that will keep them from being accused of discrimination: you need a faculty sponsor to start a club; if there’s no teacher, no club. Trying to start one via petition is a pointless breach of school policy, and disrupts the learning environment. Do it and we’ll punish you. Have a nice day.

We’re kinda astounded that not even the theater teacher or women’s soccer coach have agreed to sponsor the group. It would require a few extra hours each week at most and do a lot to expose Sequoyah High School’s apparently thriving homophobia. Could the school have implied that teachers should not support such clubs? And what’s the best way to beat this troubling new tactic? Hmmm….

Get Queerty Daily

Subscribe to Queerty for a daily dose of #gay-straightalliances #nathancarroll #sequoyahhighschool stories and more


  • RomanHans

    Obviously this pissy little ploy isn’t going to work, and the ACLU will get involved. Nobody cares *why* the school won’t allow a GSA: the fact is they won’t.

  • AlaskanAmber

    If the ACLU isn’t too busy to get involved. That is what I was told by the one here in Alaska. We have had similar, if not worse, issues. I grew up in the Wasilla area of Alaska where there are approximately 4 high schools. When I was in high school (graduated in 2006) we had GSAs. There were not very large but they existed. Two years after I graduated from my high school their GSA was shut down by the principals at the school. The club had grown and gotten more visible on campus which is a very good thing. But at a school in SarahPalintown with a Mormon church right across the street it was a bad thing as well. The students started getting picked on. Not all the teachers were stopping it so the students went to the administration who said they would talk to the teachers about stepping in to stop the harassment. There were still complaints and the harassment didn’t stop so the administration said that they could not do anything else to stop the harassment and the only way to do so was to keep the students from singling themselves out so they shut down the club.

    When I found this out I looked into all the other schools and in similar situations two other school’s GSAs had been shut down in the same year. One school had a GSA left- Wasilla High School- but the administration there would not even let the sponsoring teacher talk to the students during the meeting that was being held in her room. I ended up coming in to help them for a while because they had no clue how to do any kind of outreach without suffering the same type of harassment that had caused the other clubs to shut down and the teacher wasn’t ALLOWED to help. It is ridiculous the lengths that some schools are going through to try to keep out GSAs.

  • Crysta

    Simple, start the club OUTSIDE of the school, just off of school grounds…

    They can’t say shit, and it gives exposure.

  • Theo Dittmer

    Stand up for what you believe in and never give up. ?”If you can’t run, then walk. And if you can’t walk, then crawl. Do what you have to do. Just keep moving forward and never, ever give up.” — Dean Karnazes

  • Chck

    I agree, make an unofficial chapter, it’s not like they can stop the club from being made.

  • Drake

    The only way this is even ACLU territory us if someone can come up with some proof that the school corporation had a policy requiring or encouraging teachers to deny sponsorship to a fledgling GSA. Because any policy like this, even if it did exist, was almost certainly undocumented, there’s probably no hope for this legally. Like it or not, a teacher’s choice to sponsor an organization is just that, a choice. If there are no teachers in the corporation willing to sponsor such a wholesome group, that is the real problem that needs to be tackled.

  • AlaskanAmber

    Easy for metropolitian areas where things can be walked to and for colleges where most of the club participants can drive but not so easy for high school students, especially if they are not out to their parents. That is the issue the club I was helping with ran into: over half of our students had not told their parents they were in the club and most of those had not because they were GLBT and were not out yet to their parents.

  • Britt

    In my friends school a group of students met anyways and he kept fighting the school board.
    And now he has a GSA in his catholic school. So don’t give up!

  • Disgusted Gay American

    avoid TN like the HATE STATE it is…..

  • Ray

    The next time there is the slightest harassment sue the school for not protecting gay students. Sue, sue, sue at every opportunity.

  • David Gervais

    Just an idea for the students at Sequoyah H.S. – does the existing policy say the teacher sponsor has to be from your own school?

  • Cam

    If they can keep gays invisible it’s easier to discriminate. The LAST thing they want to allow is for people to actually meet gays.

    Why do you think that the bigots fought so hard to keep black people out of schools a few decades ago? They knew that if black and white kids actually met each other it’s harder to convince people that they aren’t human.

  • Jimmy Fury

    They should do what we did at my high school back in ye olde 90’s before GSA’s existed.

    Have everyone join an existing club. In our case it was the literary club. We did everything by the book too (no pun intended) we talked about books, read short stories out loud, wrote and shared poetry, we even published a book of our stuff.
    We just happened to be all the gay/pagan/hippie/faghag kids and most of the poetry was about girls being in love with girls…

  • the crustybastard

    Hey kids,

    1. Announce you’ve decided to form a club called, “The Interfaith Study Group.”

    2. Watch pious hypocrite Christian teachers fall all over each other trying to sponsor, so they can preach.

    3. Ignore sponsor, discuss whatever issues you would have if you’d been allowed a GSA.

    4. When they eventually shut you down, call the ACLU and tell them the school is denying your ability to peacefully assemble on the basis of the content of your speech.

  • Danny

    Wear a t-shirt to school that says “Jesus is Gay” and when they make you remove it, sue them for tens of millions of dollars for violating your freedom of religion. The school will have to fire teachers and administrators to cover the cost.

  • Nathan

    @Drake: No, its ACLU territory because the SCOTUS found in Board of Education of Westside Community Schools v. Mergen that at most, the Equal Access Act permits the appointment of a sponsor, and that the requirement of a sponsor amounts to de facto discrimination against clubs with unpopular opinions.

  • Laurie McNeece

    @Disgusted Gay American: Please don’t paint us all with the same brush…

  • David Gervais

    Could someone please confirm that this is the right place?

    Sequoyah High School
    3128 Hwy. 411
    Madisonville, TN 37354

    Telephone Numbers Office: (423) 442-9230
    (423) 442-2383

  • Michael Leslie

    Yes, David, you have the correct address. The County schools website is:

  • Michael Leslie

    @Crysta: In 2009, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) studied the climate of schools for LGBT students, and though rates of bullying and harassment were quite high, students at schools that had GSAs experienced fewer homophobic remarks, less victimization because of sexual orientation and gender expression, less absenteeism because of safety concerns, and a greater sense of belonging to the school community. By trying to limit students’ access to GSAs, Campfield and other supporters of the bill are essentially advocating against safer schools for LGBT students.

  • Robert Thompson

    @Disgusted Gay American: If you’re born there it’s hard to avoid!

Comments are closed.