The Williamsport Area School Board on Monday approved a Gay-Straight Alliance Club for high-school students.
According to the club's mission statement, it brings together all students, regardless of sexual orientation, gender, race, nationality or religion.
While the club is designed to help alleviate and combat "homophobia" and discrimination, it also provides a necessary and supportive home for all students who believe they don't "fit in," high school teacher Angela Lovecchio said.
"We live in a democratic society that promotes diversity," Lovecchio said, adding the club's addition to the school speaks to that diversity among the students and is good for the school.
Senior Cory Beney, club president, said the group is "good for others to let feelings out" and gives an opportunity to have "someone to talk to."
Kristie Neff, senior, believes that the club will be "the best thing to happen to our school."
THE MEASURE: Permitting high school students to organize a Gay-Straight Alliance
THE VOTE: 8-1
Neff added it is sometimes "hard to fit in" at the high school and such a club provides "a great place to not worry about being bullied."
The board approved the club by an 8-1 vote.
Jay Shultz cast the lone "no" vote and characterized the club as singling out students based on sexual orientation. That is "counterintuitive" to the school's ideology that everyone already is accepted, he said.
For board member Pamela Markle, approval is based on seeing the club as "not just for sexuality, but for those who don't have a real home" within the school.
In other business, Bruce Elliot, head high school principal, updated the board on the school's improvement plan to meet adequate yearly progress, acknowledging that the school is making progress "as a team."
Also, Markle discussed her concerns on a deal between Comcast and the city on providing a channel to broadcast district information.
She thinks that a channel would be good for marketing information to the public, not just for the Williamsport school district, but for other districts and boroughs in the area.
Superintendent Kathleen R. Kelley said she will look into the issue.
David B. Stone Jr., board president, presented board member Karen Harris with a certificate for completing 12 years of service.
"I am appreciative of the many years that Mrs. Harris has volunteered her time for the benefit of the students," Kelley said.
The next board meeting is at 6 p.m. Nov. 18 at the District Service Center.