The Coalition for Safer Schools of NYS, PO Box 2345, Malta, NY 12020
The Real or Perceived Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Student Protection Project
JACKSON HIGH SCHOOL
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JACKSON, MI 49202-1013
Detroit Free Press, November 18, 2000
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Gay club at Jackson high school spurs formation of opposition club
JACKSON, Mich. (AP) -- Opponents of a controversial club at Jackson High School called the Gay-Straight Alliance has prompted another group to start an opposition club.
In response to the formation of the Gay-Straight Alliance, Eian Wright has announced plans to start an opposition club called Lifting Our Voices For Excellence.
Wright said the Gay-Straight Alliance shouldn't be allowed because more students have been discussing homosexual acts in school since the club was formed in October.
"This is disturbing the education of students, and that is not bringing a positive image to the school," Wright said.
The Rev. Ira Combs Jr. of the Greater Bible Way Temple and Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan, joined Wright for a news conference Friday in opposition of the homosexual club.
Glenn said the opposition club would counter with a message of "a spirit of love."
School Principal Jim Graham said the club followed procedure for forming and that the school can't exclude one club without excluding them all. Religious clubs and ones that advocate violence are the only clubs not allowed at the school, Graham said.
Combs, whose son attends the school, said he doesn't want homosexuality forced on his children and doesn't think other parents want that either.
Junior Tyler Hampton, co-founder of the club, said he is gay, but "wouldn't know how to promote homosexuality."
He said the purpose of the club is "for students who are trying to understand their sexuality or the sexuality of their friends. We don't discuss sex acts of any kind or sexual relations in the group."
Hampton said another reason for forming the club was to "break the silence so students would know that they're not alone."
He said gay students are sometimes called names, bullied or ostracized in school. He said he has been asked why he hasn't cut off his genitals, and has also been pushed on the stairs and had a bottle thrown at him.
The Rev. Susan M. Smith of the Universalist-Unitarian Church of East Liberty said she supports what Hampton has done.
"It's incredible to do what he's done," Smith told The Jackson Citizen Patriot for a story Saturday.
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Jackson Citizen Patriot, November 18, 2000
214 S. Jackson St., Jackson, MI, 49204
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Gay student was afraid to discuss his sexuality
Former valedictorian says he wishes new Gay-StraightAlliance had been at Jackson High School when he was there.
By Keith Roberts, Staff Writer
Jim Marshall says being a gay student at Jackson High School before the Gay-Straight Alliance was both lonely and scary.
Marshall, a class of 1999 valedictorian, said he wasn't open about his sexuality in high school for fear of being harassed.
"I would have been very grateful for an organization that would have given me a sense of belonging," he said.
The Gay-Straight Alliance, formed at the high school last month, came under fire this week when plans were announced for the formation of an opposition club, Lifting Our Voices For Excellence. The Rev. Ira Combs Jr. of the Greater Bible Way Temple, who was at the school Thursday in support of the opposition group, said the Gay-Straight Alliance promotes homosexuality and called for it to be abolished.
Members of the Gay-Straight Alliance defended the club, saying it promotes the understanding of homosexuality.
Marshall, who was voted third most talkative male in his senior class poll, said he was never confronted about being gay while he was at Jackson High. But under the circumstances he still felt uncomfortable.
"It's difficult for any individual not being able to be open with such an issue," he said.
Marshall maintained a 4.0 grade-point average.
He played bassoon in the band and became the first bassoonist to win the Michigan Youth Arts Concerto competition and did it twice.
A member of student government, Marshall was one of 350 scholars selected his junior year to attend the National Young Leaders Conference in Washington. He also was a member of the African-American Culture Club and the Jackson Action Zone, a group of student volunteers.
Yet, he was afraid that if other people knew he was gay he would have been prevented from reaching his full potential.
Marshall was aware of the possibility some of his classmates were gay, but he was afraid to say anything about it.
He heard students use the word "gay" a lot, but to describe things they didn't like not to refer to people and he said that showed how ingrained their negative view of homosexuality was.
Marshall finally told his parents, Frederick and Deborah Marshall, about his sexuality after he graduated.
He was afraid they wouldn't accept him, but he was wrong.
"They are very warm, giving, caring people who could care less about my sexuality. They care about me as a person," Marshall said. "They've been extremely supportive and they continue to be extremely supportive."
Deborah Marshall said they were sad their son thought he had to keep his sexuality a secret, but glad he finally told them.
"We love him very much and he is the same kid he always was," she said. "I'm really delighted my son has told us. I think it's added to our lives rather than taken away from it."
A sophomore at the Juilliard School in New York City, Jim Marshall is planning a career in music. He is president of the student council and he still volunteers.
He said being gay is part of who he is and he is proud of it, but deep down he is just like anybody else.
"I only desire to have a normal, average, happy, healthy life like anyone else," Marshall said.
· Reach reporter Keith Roberts at firstname.lastname@example.org or 768-4922.
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Last updated 11/20/2000 by Jean Richter, richter@eecs.Berkeley.EDU