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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Long Island Principal Blocks Gay-Straight Alliance, Says Gay Slurs Aren't Really that Offensive

By Michael A. Jones -

A principal at a Long Island high school has blocked a group of LGBT and straight students from forming a gay-straight alliance at Valley Stream South High School. The principal, Maureen Henry, denied the request after three students -- with the support of several hundred of their classmates -- submitted a proposal to form an official school club. The students had been working on the proposal since October, and tell the Long Island Herald that they followed all proper protocols and procedures.
Still, Principal Henry denied their request. And here's an added insult to injury: when the students told Principal Henry about rampant anti-gay slurs, including use of the word "faggot" in the school, the Principal said it wasn't that big of a deal.
"Principal Henry told the students that she too called people 'faggots' when she was young and didn’t mean anything bad by it," says a press release from LIGALY, the Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth organization.
Right, because "Faggot" is such a positive, uplifting term of endearment.
The students involved in trying to organize the club have taken their case to the Superintendent of the School District, Dr. Richard Marsh, in hopes that administrators can step in and assist both LGBT and straight students looking to create some safe spaces within Valley Stream South High School.
"We did everything right," said Kelly Egan, one of the students trying to start the club. "I don’t see why you wouldn’t want to promote tolerance and safety.” Egan went on to note that another high school in the district -- North High School -- has a gay-straight alliance.
LIGALY is not taking this quietly. They've planned a demonstration in front of the school this afternoon, with their leadership saying that Principal Henry is essentially bullying her students by shutting down any possibility of a gay-straight alliance.
“The core issue, in my opinion, is the barriers the principal is putting up in front of them," said Robert Vitelli, a 1992 graduate of Valley Stream South High School and director of development at LIGALY.
Unnecessary barriers, if you ask us. How about sending Principal Henry, as well as Superintendent Marsh, a message that blocking your students from forming gay-straight alliances is irresponsible behavior from educators that are supposed to look out for the welfare of all of their students. Moreover, for Principal Henry to suggest that calling people "faggots" is no big deal shows exactly why a gay-straight alliance is needed in a place like Valley Stream South High School.

petition text -

Allow gay-straight alliances at Valley Stream South High School
Dear Superintendent Marsh, Asst. Superintendent Troisi, Principal Henry, and Principal Jacobson,

I am deeply disappointed to learn that Valley Stream South High School has blocked students from forming a gay-straight alliance. According to the students, hundreds of their classmates support starting a gay-straight alliance, and other schools in your district have official gay-straight alliances. Why can't Valley Stream South High School follow suit, and truly work to make sure the learning environment is safe for all students, gay and straight alike?

Perhaps more concerning is a press release circulated by the Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth organization, where Principal Henry is said to have told students that the term "fag*ots" isn't all that offensive, and doesn't mean anything crude. (See this link:

I beg to differ. Terms like this are constantly use to berate, bully and harass students because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. For the principal of a school to suggest that the word means nothing, is irresponsible at best, and an abdication of her duty to keep classrooms safe for all at worst.

I demand Principal Henry apologize for suggesting that the term "fag*gots" is benign, and I urge Valley Stream South High School to allow students to form a gay-straight alliance. It's the right thing to do for safe schools, and the right thing to do for addressing a culture where gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students are all too easily bullied in schools.

Thank you for your time.

[Your name here]

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