Medina school approves Gay-Straight Alliance

Posted 16 September 2014 at 12:00 am

Photo by Sue Cook – The Medina Board of Education approves the new club during the BOE meeting tonight.

By Sue Cook
Staff reporter

MEDINA – For two years, the students of Medina have been meeting informally in a Gay-Straight Alliance under the supervision of English teacher Karen Jones.

Tonight, the Medina school board formally approved the club, making it official and appointing Jones as the club advisor, while also offering compensation for the position like other teachers receive for advisory positions of after-school clubs.

Up to tonight, Jones was volunteering in the position, but wanted to see the district add the club to the list of officially recognized student activities. Though the school has supported the club, Jones is pleased to see the district validate it as an official school activity.

“It’s a safe place for kids to go after school to talk about common issues,” said Superintendent Jeff Evoy. “One of the main things I’m always concerned with is student safety. I want to make sure all students feel like they belong. I want to make sure all students feel safe in school. I want to make sure all students feel secure in school.”

“It was something a group of students had asked the principal about and the principal said ‘It’s something that we’d like to get started,’ and that’s how it came about,” said Evoy.

The vote by the Board of Education to approve the club was not contested by any members of the board or any members of the community present at the meeting.

“The group is to promote camaraderie,” Jones said. “It helps students not to feel isolated. I know too many people personally that needed this in high school and didn’t have it. I was very happy to step in and provide space for the kids and supervise them.”

The goal of the club has always been to ensure a safe place for students to meet without fear of bullying to openly discuss any problems they are having and to encourage students to support each other as peers. The club encourages discussion of problems that students feel they are facing or would like feedback on, such as relationships and friendships in and out of school.

The group is open for anyone to join and is a mix of gay and straight students. The straight students are referred to as allies. Many of the allies joined the club because they have friends or family members outside of the school that are marginalized and would like to extend their support to their peers in school as well. About 15 to 20 students regularly came to the club last year and Jones expects the number to increase this year.

The students who originally wanted to form the club had approached Jones and asked if she would be willing to lead it.

“I’ve always tried to create a safe space,” she said. “I make sure students in my classroom know that they can’t use any sort of derogatory language against other kids. These students felt safe enough with me to ask about having these meetings.”

The club has already participated in a GSA conference in Hamburg with over 200 other students. They also celebrate Wear It Purple Day, which is an event against bullying in any form against anyone. Teachers and students outside the club also participate by wearing purple to show that they want Medina to be a safe, supportive environment. The students have also done the Day of Silence where they do not speak during an entire day, symbolically supporting students who feel silenced by bullying.

Evoy is pleased to see Jones acting as the club advisor and commented, “She does a wonderful job. She’s dedicated to all children and she’s outstanding. I’m glad that this club will formally be in existence.”

Medina is the second school in Orleans County to currently have an active GSA club. Holley school also has an active club.