Lambda Legal Sends Letter to Snoqualmie Valley School District on Behalf of Gay Straight Alliance Student and Her Father
(Snoqualmie, Washington, March 6, 2008) — Lambda Legal has sent a letter of support to the Snoqualmie School District on behalf of Mount Si High School senior and local GSA president Jacqueline Ferland, and her father, Daniel.
The letter, which Jacqueline will formally present to the Snoqualmie Valley School Board at tonight’s (Thursday, March 6, 2008) meeting, seeks to remind administrators of their responsibility to ensure safe and equal educational opportunities for all students, including LGBT students.
On January 17, a Martin Luther King Day assembly at Mount Si led to wider conversations on campus about issues of equality and LGBT students. In response, a group of conservative students, parents and outside community members formed an organization called “The Coalition to Defend Education” or “CoDE.” A little more than a month later, on February 27, CoDE sent an “open letter” to the members of the Mount Si High School Gay Straight Alliance, urging them to cancel their planned activities for their annual Day of Silence, which is designed to bring attention to anti-LGBT bullying, harassment and discrimination in schools.
The CoDE letter urges GSA students to cancel plans for the Day of Silence, because of the possibility of it attracting “more persecution of gay students” (emphasis in original) based on what it claimed would be a building “resentment” that would “spill out in ugly ways,” where “problems experienced will occur again.” Of great alarm, this letter referenced “unstable people [who] sometimes turn their frustration to extreme acts of violence,” including “[s]chool shootings.”
Lambda Legal’s letter, drafted by Staff Attorney Tara Borelli, reminds the board that “Though some community members have expressed a view that discussion of LGBT people necessarily is controversial by definition, public entities such as schools may not give effect to such private biases by lending those views the imprimatur of school policies… LGBT students and their supporters exist, and have a right to exist, at Mount Si.”
“I find it quite disturbing that a group of fundamentalists, who wrap themselves in a banner called the "Coalition to Defend Education", can be allowed to coerce students at Mount Si to abandon their personal commitments to social justice because of their own inability to reconcile the concept of equality,” said Daniel Ferland. “I find it equally disturbing that the school administration and the district have failed to aggressively and unambiguously assert their commitment to equality within our schools. In light of the recent tragedy involving the death of Lawrence King, a 15-year-old student who was murdered in school because he was gay, now more than ever we must commit ourselves to becoming active and engaged parents, citizens and neighbors, so that bias and bigotry against the LGBT community cannot continue to thrive under a veil of false morality.”
Jacqueline and Daniel Ferland plan to address the board at tonight’s meeting, 7:30 p.m., 8001 Silva Ave S.E., Snoqualmie. Both they and Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Tara Borelli will be available for interviews.
Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.