[3/19/17] Faculty and staff members at a charter school in Sandpoint, Idaho, set up a clandestine student “gay” club, recruited students for it and concealed their activism from the affected students’ parents apparently in violation of federal law, according to letter from the nonprofit legal organization Liberty Counsel.
Consequently, Liberty Counsel will “take further action to prevent irreparable harm to the rights of our clients, as well as the parents of other children whom the school is recruiting in the absence of their parents’ knowledge and permission,” the group says in a letter to school officials from Richard L. Mast Jr.
Principal Mary Jensen of Forrest Bird Charter School, which runs middle and high school operations, “admitted the secrecy under which school staff and others had operated,” Liberty Counsel says.
School employees even “facilitated kids meeting off-campus at a local library under the supervision of ‘supportive’ third parties.”
“Jensen stated that they wanted to be ‘a progressive school on that sort of thing, but we did not want to be ‘in-your-face’,’ so parents could not prevent their children from attending. She states ‘we’re keeping it kind of on the down low,’ because ‘this is North Idaho,’ and ‘kids who wanted to participate in the club did not necessarily want their parents to know,’” Liberty Counsel explains.
“Principal Jensen also stated that starting this club was one of her goals, saying, ‘The adults … we spent months trying to do this thing.’ Incredibly, Ms. Jensen also claims that ‘we don’t want the kids to be ‘excluded’ from ‘developing the [club’s] mission statement, because it’s their club.’ She also states ‘One of the members of the adult crew wanted us to be the activists, doing the parades, you know, be in-their-face kind of stuff.’ ‘We decided not to do activism at first, because that’s a big step.’ She stated, ‘I didn’t want to do that …because this is North Idaho,’” according to Liberty Counsel.
But the law forbids schools from sponsoring or recruiting for “gay” clubs, the legal team says.
In a new letter to the school, dated Thursday, the team writes the Equal Access Act, which regulates student clubs in schools, provides that a club is “curricular” only “if the subject matter of the group is actually taught, or will soon be taught, in a regularly offered course” or if the subject “concerns the body of courses as a whole.”
“Schools may not play games with what is ‘curricular/non-curricular. … Whatever arguments the school may raise about ‘combating bullying’ and ‘support,’ these are insufficient to bring the GSA into ‘curricular’ status.”
That means that “schools may not endorse partisan political or otherwise controversial positions of non-curricular clubs like GSA. It is as inappropriate for school employees to lead and recruit for the GSA in their official capacities, as it is for school employees to lead another partisan club, like the Young Democrats or Young Republicans,” the lawyers write.
The school declined to respond to a message left by WND requesting comment.
Liberty Counsel says: “Indeed, the Idaho Department of Education states that it is ‘unethical’ for teachers to use ‘institutional privileges for the promotion of political candidates or for political activities.’”