High School Students Protest Board Decision; Student Seriously Injured
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ Hundreds of students walked out of school Friday and some marched on the state Capitol to protest a ban on extracurricular clubs that was aimed at preventing students from having gay-lesbian support groups.
The demonstrations were peaceful, but a 14-year-old girl was run over by a car on her way to the Capitol and seriously injured.
The school-club issue has become a hot topic for legislators. The Utah Senate on Friday passed a bill that would prohibit teachers from condoning illegal conduct in schools. Democratic opponents decried it as a thinly disguised swipe at gay clubs and their faculty sponsors.
The vote happened to coincide with walkouts by some of the more than 4,000 students at two public high schools.
At East High School, about 400 students gathered across a busy two-lane street from the school, shouting ``We will fight for our rights,″ and hoisting signs reading ``Separate Church and State″ And ``Honk in Support of the 1st Amendment.″
An additional 100 students watched, some denouncing the alliance of gay, lesbian and straight students for forming the group that led to the school board’s 4-3 vote Tuesday to ban all non-academic clubs.
Several boys hoisted their own sign, which read ``SAFE _ Students Against Faggots at East.″
About 200 students walked out of West High and marched a mile to the Capitol. On the way, Jacqueline Marie Eteaki and several other students jumped onto the front of a car, police said. She fell when the driver braked, was pinned underneath and later hospitalized with internal injuries and fractures.
The march continued, and from the steps of the Capitol, junior Andrew Hunt decried the board decision.
``Over the past couple of years, the Legislature, the school district and the administration have pushed their morals on us,″ said Hunt, wearing shoulder-length hair and beads.
``Not everybody cares about the gays and lesbians,″ added Stacie Cottrell, 16, a West sophomore. ``But they banned the Hispanic club, the theater club, all of them.″
Vanessa Palme, a member of the gay-lesbian-straight alliance that sought formal recognition at East High, said protesters quickly heeded the principal’s request to end their protest because they achieved what they wanted, to be heard.
``I definitely think the point was made,″ she said. ``They’re wrong to take away all the clubs.″
U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who coincidentally appeared before the Legislature on Friday, agreed that the school board went too far. He said he thinks the U.S. Supreme Court would uphold a more limited ban just of sexually oriented clubs.
School board attorneys said they did not want to invite a lawsuit under the federal Equal Access Act, which requires schools to treat all non-curriculum based clubs the same. Hatch cosponsored the 1984 act so that Bible study clubs could form in schools.