Medford schools to review policy after letter alleges bias against Gay Straight Alliance

By Paris Achen

For the Tidings

Medford schools officials say they will meet next week to review policies after the school district received a letter alleging unequal treatment of South Medford High School's Gay Straight Alliance.

The letter from Los Angeles-based Lambda Legal Defense, an organization that seeks to defend the civil rights of lesbians, gay men and those with HIV or AIDS, was prompted by a complaint by Connie McNair, a South Medford junior and GSA member.

The teenager said she wanted to put up posters in the high school announcing the "National Day of Silence," which today recognizes victims of anti-gay bullying, but she was denied permission.

"They (the school administration) said they don't allow other clubs to do it, but this is very untrue," she said. "Other clubs all the time are allow to write what the topic of their meetings are on posters.

"We just want the same privileges as other clubs have."

Public school students are protected by the federal Equal Access Act, said Lambda staff attorney Tara Borelli. It prohibits schools that receive federal funds and allow extracurricular student groups to meet from discrimination based on the content of a group's speech. GSA groups across the country have used the EAA in court to protect their right to free speech, Borelli said.

Doug Jantzi, Medford schools secondary education director, said there have been cases in which office staff have unknowingly acted against district policy and allowed students groups to advertise the subject of their meetings on posters, but that inconsistency has since been corrected.

"We want to be consistent in all our student-led clubs," Jantzi said.

District policy prohibits non-district-sanctioned clubs from making announcements or posting information on school grounds that is considered "proselytizing." The club may announce its meeting but may not write or say the subject of the meeting in school announcements or on posters on schools grounds, nor may they use phrases such as "come" and "join."

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