Rule Requiring Parents' Permission Stirs Controversy in Georgia

By Jered Ede | July 7, 2008 | 8:22 PM EDT

( - A homosexual advocacy group says a new rule proposed by Georgia School Superintendent Kathy Cox is an attempt to undermine "gay-straight alliances."

The rule, currently open for public debate, would require students to get their parents' permission to participate in any school-sponsored activity or club, including GSAs.

Chuck Bowen, the executive director of Georgia Equality, told Cybercast News Service that the rule forces LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) students to ask their parents for permission to join a GSA, although they may not be "comfortable to come out to their parents."

Coming out is a "significant life event," Bowen said. "Many students who come out to their parents end up on the street, because their parents are not tolerant...of their sexual identity."

The Georgia Department of Education said the proposed rule is simply about parental notification. "The superintendent is adamant that no group should be targeted," Press Information Secretary Dana Tofig told Cybercast News Service.

"It is important for schools to engage parents in what their kids are doing," Tofig added. "We ask parents to stay involved in school and we want to get more and more parents involved."

Bowen agreed that parents "should be involved," but, he added, "unfortunately, there are a lot of parents who...are not understanding of the issue of sexual identity."

Georgia Equality's website describes Superintendent Cox as "a former Republican House Member and supporter of the conservative Christian Coalition," and the website urges readers to attend a public hearing on Wednesday afternoon to speak against the proposal.

"Should this measure be adopted by the school board, it is likely that similar efforts will be pushed in other states with the support of the conservative right," the website says.

The Georgia Board of Education voted unanimously in favor of the new rule on May 12, and it will take a final vote on the rule change on June 14, after a 30-day public comment period expires.

The parental-permission rule would take effect in the upcoming school year, but Bowen believes the ACLU will challenge the rule, if it does pass.

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