Virginia Legislators Teach Students A Lesson: Bigotry

|

The Virginia House of Delegates overwhelmingly passed a bill in February that would have given local school boards the power to ban Gay-Straight Student Alliance clubs in public high schools. However, the bill was blocked by a Virginia Senate Committee last week. Was this because the Senators were striking a blow for sexual tolerance?

No. The Senators pointed out that the school boards can already ban the clubs.

NEXT: How Fat Kids May Kill Socialized Medicine

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. The larger issue here is that public schools can suspend the Bill of Rights on their grounds. How can people expect them to be good citizens when they grow up, when the government denies them one of the most basic constitutional rights, the freedom to assemble?

  2. Despite the social negatives, I celebrate the unprecedented blow against redundant legislation.

  3. Next thing we’ll see is a school banning the Movie Club because they discussed Brokeback Mountain…

  4. Virginia is for, celibate until married, missionary position only, no kissing in public, and otherwise inoffensive to bible thumping puritans, lovers.

  5. Yes, they already have that right—but it makes sense. Say, if a group that is inciting hatred and violence is meeting on school property, shouldn’t the school board have the ability to say “take it off our property”?

    I’m just not sure how you’d work out the logistics of a law that would allow them discretion, but prevent them from abusing that discretion. Though, I do suppose that the defeat of this bill is a good thing, in that the bill would have codified by law the ability of school boards to kick groups out based on whether they thought they were promoting premarital sex. That one is an obvious bad. But to say that freedom of assembly is absolute and infinite, on school grounds, is ignorant.

  6. Evan: Good points. I would be uncomfortable with high school chapters of the Ku Klux Klan. But is that a real problem? How many hate groups seek to establish student groups at high schools?

    BTW, I see no reason why students shouldn’t be establish relgious clubs at high schools either.

    Why not privatize schools and let parents and students set their own standards?

  7. I’m with Umbriel. It’s nice to see some people actually stop doing something when they realize it’s redundant, rather than plunge ahead with symbolism.

    Common sense is common sense, no matter what the context.

  8. Why not privatize schools and let parents and students set their own standards?

    But then they wouldn’t get properly socialized.

  9. Why not privatize schools and let parents and students set their own standards?

    As is often the case in libertarian discussions, since the ideal solution is not politically feasible, we’re left with trying to figure out how best to put makeup on the pig. As long as “they” won’t let us slaughter it, do we merely point out that it’s a pig whatever we do, or do we join in the discussion regarding how best to make it up? Naturally there’s pros and cons both ways….

  10. Why not privatize schools and let parents and students set their own standards?

    Bigotry and censorship is so much more appealing when it’s coming from the private sector.

  11. Mike, there is no such thing as censorship by the private sector.

  12. Anytime you hear about the government “teaching a lesson” you know it’s bad news.

  13. Mike,

    Libertarianism 101: the free market is the fairest place to express such bigotries since then they are not supported by either coerced tax money or by the coercive rule of law, and consumers would have the choice of whether or not to condone such bigotries. Since after all, what’s bigotry to you or me is God’s way to someone else. I may think they’re wrong and stupid, but I respect their right to be wrong and stupid and to act cooperatively on their wrongness and stupidity. OTOH, I don’t respect their desire to force their wrongness and stupidity on me or anyone else who doesn’t want to be ruled by it.

  14. Mike: The larger issue here is that public schools can suspend the Bill of Rights on their grounds. How can people expect them to be good citizens when they grow up, when the government denies them one of the most basic constitutional rights, the freedom to assemble?

    You’re presuming that the folks who run public schools believe love of freedom is an attribute of a “good citizen.”

  15. shouldn’t the school board have the ability to say “take it off our property”?

    They certainly can, on their property – but my yearly school tax bill means it’s not their property.

  16. Rich Ard:

    And since the school board is appointed or elected by the people to act on behalf of the taxpayers, it’s their role.

    Just because YOU pay taxes doesn’t mean YOU get a real say in things. Your “say” is your vote, or your letters to reps, or your protests. But the ones who represent you are the ones who make the decisions, even if, technically, it’s all “our” property.

  17. Just because YOU pay taxes doesn’t mean YOU get a real say in things. Your “say” is your vote, or your letters to reps, or your protests. But the ones who represent you are the ones who make the decisions, even if, technically, it’s all “our” property.

    But ownership is really who controls something. So let’s make it clear, who really OWNS the schools: the school administrators, and not us. The whole idea that something “belongs to the people” is bullshit. Even our private property is strictly regulated by the government, and so the status of private property is pretty shaky.

    In theory we can vote, but since funding, eligibility, the right to speak in public, etc., are all strictly controlled by the ones in power, voting can’t in any form be considered a significant means of control. Voting is mostly a fact-saving way for people to be obedient, not a real method for selecting leaders.

  18. What a sad commentary that the height of legislative discretion is to kill a bigoted bill because the law already provides for bigotry.

  19. I would assume that the bill would be unnecessary, since it seems declaratory of existing law:

    “In the exercise of their authority to protect the well-being of students pursuant to and in compliance with 20 U.S.C. 4071(f), local school boards in their discretion may prohibit school facilities from being used by any student club or other student group that encourages or promotes sexual activity by unmarried minor students.

    “[State attorney general’s office required tp defend the law]”

    The bill references part of the federal Equal Access Act which says in pertinent part: “Nothing in this subchapter shall be construed to limit the authority of the school, its agents or employees, to . . . protect the well-being of students. . . .”

    According to the linked articles, the reference to gay-straight alliances comes from *opponents* of the bill, not the supporters. Most of these opponents, while saying that the bill is aimed at the alliances, also say that the alliances do *not* encourage premarital sex by minors. The alliances, it’s said, simply provide a safe spece for gay students and discourage them from committing suicide. This being so, it would seem to follow that the bill wouldn’t affect the alliances, because if they are into promoting safety for gay students, they will not encourage them to engage in unsafe behavior like premarital sex.

  20. A quick check at my son’s (Virginia) high school shows some of the following clubs:

    Asian Achievers
    Environmental Action Club
    Fellowship of Christian Athletes
    Gay / Straight Alliance
    Habitat for Humanity
    Latino Club & Friends
    Students Against Landmines
    Young African-American Achievers

    Etc., etc.

    I’ll refrain from comment about most of those except to note that it is curious that you apparently have to be a jock to be a Christian there and that I would have been the sort of student back in high school to have tried to form a “Students For Landmines” club just to be a jerk.

    All these clubs need faculty advisors, most (but certainly not all) of the high school faculty members I have met have been fairly overtly liberal and so there has been a decidedly leftist bias at my son’s high school (which is, after all, in the People’s Republic of Arlington anyway). I point that out merely to note that there isn’t any real freedom of association among students if only because, for example, no faculty member in her right mind would be willing to sponsor a “Hate Group.” I doubt that private schools would be much different in that regard, vouchers or not.

    I knew several gay kids in high school in the 60’s and I am sure high school was an agonizing experience for them. (Hell, it was agonizing for me, too.) So in principle I think these Gay / Straight Alliance clubs are a good thing. However, I question whether their existence is student generated or faculty generated and I rather fear the latter is the case. Moreover, high school being high school, I further suspect that the “Straight” part of the title was added to provide protective coloring; that is, “You don’t have to be gay to join” reads “You don’t have to come out of the closet.” Then again, I’m only guessing.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.