Students Win Gay-Straight Alliance Club at Flour Bluff, Texas, High School 2010-2011

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Timing
Time Period:  
January
2011
to
8 March
2011
Location and Goals
Country: 
United States
Location City/State/Province: 
Texas
Location Description: 
A small coastal town in the historically intolerant American South.
Goals: 
Nikki Peet set out to start a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) club at Flour Bluff High School.
 

In November 2010, Bianca “Nikki” Peet attempted to start a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) in Flour Bluff, Texas, part of the greater Corpus Christi area. She initially went through the normal channels within the local high school, but the school’s principal, James Crenshaw, denied her request to form a GSA. Crenshaw asked her to change the club’s name and mission and come back for reconsideration. After this initial denial, Peet revised the club’s mission statement. She resubmitted it in January of 2011 and was again denied.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who had been in contact with Peet, then sent the school district a notice that they were in violation of the federal Equal Access Act by preventing the GSA from forming. Officials in the school district came together to discuss the Equal Access Act, which stipulates that if one non-curricular club is allowed to meet on campus, all non-curricular clubs must be allowed. This 1984 act was initially created as a way to protect the freedoms of religious campus groups such as Bible study. Starting on 25 February 2011, the district’s decision to enforce the Equal Access Act kept the GSA out of Flour Bluff High School. It also served to demonize the GSA supporters, particularly with respect to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, who were forced to meet off-campus, and whose community were among the most vehement of the opposition.

On 27 February 2011, Reverend Charles S. Brown, a pastor at Corpus Christi’s St. Paul Church of Christ, publicly endorsed Peet’s campaign in a letter to the editor of the Corpus Christi Caller Times. He had read an article in which Peet spoke about the importance of safe spaces and resources for LGBTQIA students. His position was that to prevent the formation of a GSA would be seen as a confirmation that LQBTQIA individuals were second-class citizens and that it was okay to make them the target of bullying.

After Peet’s second failed attempt to form a GSA through the normal channels, she and her supporters created a Change.org petition and prepared themselves for a day of protest outside of the high school. On 4 March 2011, roughly 150 GSA supporters gathered outside of the high school holding up signs stating their position, chanting equality-themed slogans, and speaking to news stations as well as individuals who later posted footage on Youtube. These protestors were not only students, but also parents and representatives from several LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual) organizations throughout the Coastal Bend, such as the the Texas A&M Corpus Christi GSA. They brought along a hard copy of their Change.org petition, had by then amassed over 54,000 signatures.

Counter-protesters gathered across the street from the high school. They also held up signs and chanted, speaking to news stations when asked. The counter-protesters were mainly individuals affiliated with religious groups in the area. The two groups chanted back and forth at one another, but at some point during the day, members of the counter-protesting group began to throw stones across the street at the GSA supporters. No one was hurt, and it is unclear whether the counter-protesters intended injurious force.

On 8 March 2011, the school board held a closed-door meeting, after which they announced that they could not ban the GSA from meeting on campus. None of the board members commented on their votes or the conversations within the meeting. The Board allowed the GSA to remain in Flour Bluff High School for the remainder of the school year. In August 2011, the Board approved the club to remain at the high school for another academic year.

This campaign was certainly influenced by the growing support for members of the LGBTQIA community throughout Texas. Flour Bluff was also something of a symbolic location for the LGBTQIA movement because it was such an unwelcoming environment for queer people because of the region’s high concentration of conservative Christians, who, in the American South, have historically taken issue with the LGBTQIA movement.

Research Notes
Influences: 

This campaign was influenced by the growing support for members of the LGBTQIA community throughout Texas. Flour Bluff was also something of a symbolic location for the LGBTQIA movement because it was such an unwelcoming environment for queer people because of the region’s high concentration of conservative Christians, who, in the American South, have historically taken issue with the LGBTQIA movement.

Sources: 
Anon. 2011. “Flour Bluff High School Acknowledges Gay-Straight Alliance Club Has The Right To Meet.” American Civil Liberties Union, March 9. Retrieved May 11, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20150511232331/https://www.aclu.org/news/flour-bluff-high-school-acknowledges-gay-straight-alliance-club-has-right-meet).

Anon. 2011. “Flour Bluff ISD Will Allow GSA and Other Groups on Campus - at Least for Now.” Dallas Voice, March 9. Retrieved May 11, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20150511220444/http://www.dallasvoice.com/flour-bluff-isd-gsa-groups-campus-1067915.html).

Brown, Charles S. 2011. “Letters To the Editor: 02.27.11.” Retrieved May 11, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/save/http://www.caller.com/opinion/letters-to-the-editor/letters-editor-022711).

Griffith, Dottie and Robin Shepherd. 2011. “ACLU Demands Flour Bluff High School Allow Gay Straight Alliance.” American Civil Liberties Union, March 2. Retrieved May 11, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20150511232458/http://www.aclutx.org/2011/03/02/flourbluffgsa/).

Meyers, Rhiannon. 2011. “Flour Bluff ISD Approves Gay-Straight Alliance for at Least a Year.” Retrieved May 11, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20150511220735/http://www.caller.com/news/education/flour-bluff-isd-approves-gay-straight-alliance-a).

Ward, Justin. 2011. “Texas School District Prohibits Formation Of a Gay-Straight Alliance; Protest, Legal Action in the Works.” Retrieved May 11, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20150512000830/http://www.glaad.org/2011/03/02/texas-school-district-prohibits-formation-of-a-gay-straight-alliance-protest-legal-action-in-the-works).

Wright, John. 2011. “What’s Brewing: Corpus Christi School Refuses GSA; Hawaii Governor Signs Civil Unions Bill.” Dallas Voice, February 24. Retrieved May 11, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20150511220555/http://www.dallasvoice.com/brewing-corpus-christi-school-gsa-hawaii-governor-signs-civil-unions-1066294.html).

Wright, John. 2011. “Corpus Christi School District Says It Will Ban All Clubs Rather than Allowing Gay Straight Alliance.” Dallas Voice, February 26. Retrieved May 11, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20150511220624/http://www.dallasvoice.com/corpus-christi-school-district-ban-clubs-allowing-gay-straight-alliance-1066780.html).

Change.org. 2011. “Let Nikki Peet Start A Gay-Straight Alliance in Corpus Christi, Texas.” Retrieved May 11, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20150511220706/https://www.change.org/p/let-nikki-peet-start-a-gay-straight-alliance-in-corpus-christi-texas)

YouTube. “gsa protest at flour bluff high school, march 4, 2011.” Retrieved May 11, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20150511232540/https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rx7YQi01MT4)

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Beatriz Grace Baker 11/05/2015