Gay-Straight Alliance Missing From Philomath: High School Transfers Can Make Life Easier for Gay Students

High school wasn’t easy for me and I was smart, privileged, and straight. I lived in a big city and went to a school full of easy-going students. I was a harmless, clueless nerd. But even in this mild environment, I was picked on at times.

Despite more than a decade, high school is still high school. A lot of what makes growing up a challenge can’t be changed. It is possible to change what high school you go to, though.

gsaAll things are not equal when it comes to local high schools and gay students. Consider one example of inclusion and community presence, the gay-straight alliance. GSA Network defines a gay-straight alliance as a student-initiated and run club that seeks “to provide a safe, supportive environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning (LGBTQ) and straight ally youth to meet and discuss sexual orientation and gender identity issues, and to work to create a school environment free of discrimination, harassment, and intolerance.”

Corvallis High School and Crescent Valley High School both have GSAs. Philomath High School does not.

The lack of a GSA doesn’t necessarily mean that Philomath High is anti-gay. At a minimum, it means that Philomath lacks at least one supportive element that both Corvallis and Crescent Valley have.

Philomath’s principal, Ken Ball, was too busy to speak about GSAs when I gave him a call. He did confirm that they don’t have an active GSA. “Sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t,” Ball said.

Of course, the lack of a GSA could point to an unwelcoming atmosphere for LBGT students at Philomath.

Whatever the cause or result of no GSA at Philomath, transfer to a high school with a GSA could provide gay students with more peer and administrative support.

The transfer process is pretty straightforward. Complete a one-page form found on the Corvallis School District website and submit it to the district office. The requested school must not be at capacity and the student’s current district must sign off, releasing the student to the new district.

Principal of Crescent Valley, Cherie Stroud, said that they like to accept transfer students and look for reasons to accept rather than reject students.

“We do try to be open and welcoming. That’s one of our strong desires,” she said.

She did recommend that students try to speak to their school officials first before they transfer.

“The school should be given a chance to first be aware of the situation and then address it,” Shroud said. “If a student didn’t get an appropriate outcome from that, then they could certainly apply to transfer.”

Life for a high school student will never be free of negative experiences. A GSA presence might lessen these experiences, though, or at least provide support during hardships. Corvallis School District transfer forms are online at:
http://www.csd509j.net/Portals/1/Business%20Services/Transfers/Inter%20District%20Transfer%20Application%20Feb%202012.pdf

By Lana Jones

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