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Mason City High School Gay-Straight Alliance

(Submitted to by BlackJack)

This email was sent out by TJ Jumper, now if a teacher can’t be involved, why was one on TV?


I had a couple of parents express concerns and a couple ask questions, so it was decided that I would send out this letter to all parents in order to provide the same information to all pertaining to last weeks t-shirt hand out:

March 7, 2011

Dear MCHS Families,

Last Monday, February 28 the Mason City High School Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) gave out approximately 200 free purple t-shirts to any student who wanted one.† The shirt stated “Gay? Fine by me.”† As the leader of secondary education with the Mason City Schools, I try to pride myself and my leadership on communication with parents.† Communication is vital to form teamwork, which is needed for our children to have the best education possible.† It takes both the school and families working together as a team for this to occur.† I should have communicated to parents/guardians in advance regarding the t-shirt give away last Monday. I apologize for not communicating that this would be occurring and the guidelines that were set along with the background to those guidelines.† This would have provided families with the opportunity to discuss the topic together with their child.

The GSA is one of a few student-led clubs that use our facility.† There are a variety of student-led clubs here at MCHS; a couple are religious based while others are interest based.† All of these groups fall under the Equal Access Act.† Following is an excerpt summary, “The group is not sponsored by the school itself, by teachers, by other school employees, or by the government.” This means that such employees cannot promote, lead or participate in a meeting. However, a teacher or other school employee can be assigned to a group for “custodial purposes.”† The group is not disruptive. i.e. it “does not materially and substantially interfere with the orderly conduct of educational activities within the school.” Persons from the community may not “direct, conduct, control, or regularly attend activities of student groups.”

The information we give to these student-led groups is that they must be outside of school hours, most meet before or after school.† We also state that a student-led club has an advisor that is a teacher to oversee the group for “custodial purposes.”† When enforcing the Equal Access Act, as a school and a district we must remain neutral and must follow the all or none philosophy of allowing student-led groups.

The intent presented to the administration was to encourage respect for all individuals in the school and to promote our school as a safe place for all students.† When making a decision about whether this should occur or not, we also had to consider the first amendment rights and the Supreme Court decision Tinker vs. Des Moines which allows student’s freedom of speech in particular to clothing.† Trying to limit this activity would have infringed upon individual rights of the students involved.

Based on this information, several guidelines were set for the group and the same guidelines would be set for all other student-led groups.† All activities need to occur on none school hours, which the group followed as the shirts were passed out before school started.† Also, it had to be voluntary for students to take and/or wear it.† The shirts could not contain anything that would not be allowed under our appropriate school attire guidelines, which means that nothing on the shirts could be derogatory, promote violence, gang affiliation, drugs, alcohol, and/or inappropriate language.† The final stipulation would be that no substantial disruption to the learning environment would occur.† According to the information that I am aware of from staff and other administration all of these guidelines were met on Monday.†

As a school and a district we want to support all students, have an inclusive environment, and be a safe place for students to learn.† This is developed and maintained by not taking a stance as a staff and remaining neutral on political and religious issues.† Some staff (approximately 14) decided to wear the t-shirts to show support for a student group, promote the idea of diversity, and having a safe school.† Unfortunately with such a hot issue politically involving sexual orientation, it may have appeared to some that the staff was taking a side on this issue which may have caused some students to feel uncomfortable.† After school on Monday, we reviewed and addressed our district’s stance pertaining to issues that may be of political nature and how some students/parents may have felt that this may have promoted a student-led club that falls under Equal Access.

Also I want to make clear the media was in the building without having approval from my office or district office to do a story on the t-shirt hand-out.† This was a break down in communication from the main office staff.† This should not have occurred during the school day because of the Equal Access Act.

As a school we want to support all of our students, have a safe environment, and promote respect for everyone.† Mason City High School as an institution and its employees do not promote or condemn any of our student-led groups or their actions that fall under the Equal Access Act or freedom of speech.† We simply offer a place for them to gather as long as the groups follow the standard guidelines that have been set.† If you have questions and/or concerns regarding this issue please contact me at school at 421-4431.


T.J. Jumper
Director of Secondary Programs


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