A Gay -Straight Alliance (GSA) Club has been approved for thanks to a donation from a community resident.
The Seaford Board of Education voted unanimously at its Thursday night meeting to allow the formation of Seaford High School’s first GSA Club for the remainder of the 2011-12 school year. The school board also approved a $683.50 donation from Susan Ruona that will pay for the club’s advisor.
Ruona was motivated to help jumpstart a GSA in Seaford after her son Scott and other openly gay students at the high school were unsuccessful last year in a petition drive to launch the club due to a lack of funding in the district. Scott Ruona graduated Seaford last year and while he is now attending Georgetown University, his mother decided it was important to step forward with initial funding for a GSA because of the need she saw for it last year from many of her son’s friends.
“I view this differently than a club,” said Ruona during Thursday’s school board meeting prior to the GSA being approved. “I view it more as a wellness or awareness program.”
Ruona attended the first Long Island Gay Parents-Teachers Association meeting on Nov. 2 at the new in Garden City where a main topic of conversation was the importance of having GSA clubs in schools. Other nearby Long Island districts that have approved GSAs in their high schools include Plainedge, Levittown, Garden City and Valley Stream.
Some broad goals that the Seaford students wrote in their petition for the new GSA include:
- To create an alliance of students committed to reducing harassment and bullying.
- To combat the negative affects of exclusion.
- Encourage and support tolerance, acceptance and positive relations among all students.
The Seaford Board of Education approval of a GSA comes as a new state law called the Dignity for all Students Act gets set to take effect in July that requires New York districts to formally address bullying in their curriculum.
“Having an active GSA in your high school or other schools fits right into everything that is in the new laws and regulations related to the Dignity for all Students Act," said Seaford Superintendent of Schools Brian Conboy.
Ruona and other Seaford residents urged the school board at Thursday’s meeting to fund the GSA in next year’s budget and not rely on a donation from the community. The Seaford School District is operating on a contingency budget this year after voters rejected proposed spending plans last and .
“I thank Susan for funding this but I would also say that this should be something that the school funds next year and not have to count on a resident to do it,” Russ Klein said.
“I think this will do a lot to bring awareness and understanding among the students," Maureen Canter said.
“Every time I hear a child killing himself, hanging himself, shooting himself… it breaks my heart,” said Ruona referring to how many gay teenagers get bullied and resort to suicide. “If this would even help one kid, it’s money so well spent.”