Several students staged a protest in the Belleville civic square to draw attention to the discrimination they say gay and lesbian students face at Belleville East High School. “This is why we are having a peaceful protest,” a senior said, “so people know what’s going on.”1
The senior alleged that the administration impeded efforts to start a gay-straight alliance at Belleville East, though several other middle and high schools in the St. Louis area have such student organizations. Numerous complaints allege the administration shows hostility towards gay and lesbian students. In one instance, two male students were made to apologize for a kiss they shared on-stage during a pageant performance. In another, administrators kept a letter-to-the-editor about the mistreatment of gay and lesbian students from running in the school paper.2 And, a female athlete was made to resign from her post in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes after she participated in a talk radio discussion on gay teens.3 “I was on the radio one day, and then the next day, the coach that sponsors the FCA told me I had to step down,” the young woman explained. “I can’t believe they did that because I talked about gay issues.”4
The principal denies the accusations and stands by the decisions in each of these instances. In explaining the punishment of the two male performers, he said “it was an issue of appropriateness… if you take your family to a G-rated movie; you expect to see a G-rated movie.”5 He affirmed that it was the Fellowship that demanded the resignation, and that he had mediated between the athlete and the organization in an attempt to maintain the student’s position. He also deferred to the school board on the questions about the GSA.6
- Nicholas J. C. Pistor, “Belleville East students say gays at school face bias,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 19 February 2008, accessed 4 April 2008, <http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/news/stories.nsf/illinoisnews/story/ 50978EBC0D03B916862573F40015B9BD?OpenDocument.>
- Scott Wuerz, “Belleville high school students stage protest over gay rights,” News-Democrat, 19 February 2008, accessed 4 April 2008, <http://www.bnd.com/homepage/story/259501.html>.