school daze

The Long Island High School Principal Who Doesn’t Want ‘Faggots’ To Have A GSA (Update: They’ll Get It)

Students ask school administrators to let them form a gay-straight alliance. Administrators say no. Sound familiar? Except this isn’t some Catholic school district in Canada; it’s a public school in Long Island. And Sam Seligman, Kelly Egan, and Joseph Kofler (pictured L-R) say the principal at Valley Stream South High School, Maureen Henry, has refused their requests to start a GSA. Because she used to call kids “faggots” too. Uh! So now they’re going to her bosses. UPDATE: The GSA has been approved by the superintendent.

While Valley Stream, a combined junior- and senior- high school, had a GSA as recently as two years ago, it stumbled along with minimal membership. But Kofler, Egan, and Seligman says they’ve got at least 30 students, both straight and gay, who say they’re interested in joining. They’ve also got “several hundred students” who signed a petition supporting the organization’s formation.

So why are the kids being denied a GSA?

“We did everything right,” says Egan about applying for formal recognition. “The club is already in the district [which has two other schools]. North [High School] has it. I don’t see why you wouldn’t want to promote tolerance and safety.” For realz. Especially when you’ve got a gay student like Kofler, who says he’s been bullied since he came out in ninth grade. Oh, and KIDS KILLING THEMSELVES because going to school every day is not education, but torture. Except those concerns fell on Henry’s deaf ears, the students claim; she told them back when she was young she called kids “faggots,” but it wasn’t a cruel thing to do.

So the trio of students (which includes Seligman, who is straight) are going up the chain of command, penning a letter to Superintendent Dr. Richard Marsh, assistant superintendents Dr. Thomas Troisi and Bill Heidenreich, and Board of Educaiton President Ken Cummings. Marsh has responded that he’s going to look into the matter and meet with Principal Henry about it. So that’s a start.

But it shouldn’t have to be this hard. The creation of GSAs should be something school administrators encourage, not get in the way of. Far too often adult education professionals, like plenty of others, confuse gay-straight alliances or any talk of sexuality with sex. But that’s not what GSAs are about, at least not specifically. They are about fostering a greater sense of community among disparate student “cliques” that might otherwise butt heads.

Here’s hoping this story turns out like Jason Osmanski’s. In the meantime, you can reach Principal Henry at 516-791-0310.

UPDATE: Interim Superintendent Dr. Richard Marsh has approved the GSA after, he says, he met with Principal Henry and they agreed to let students form the group. “I believe in this, and so does the principal.” I mean, the principal does not believe in it, clearly. But what else are they going to say? “Hopefully they’ll get a good turnout,” says Marsh, who won’t be able to provide funding to the group until the next school year, as the extracurricular budget has already been set.