R.I. Lawmaker Threatens to Cut High School’s Funding Over GSA
A Rhode Island lawmaker ignited a firestorm of controversy when he threatened to cut a high school’s funding if administrators allowed a gay-straight alliance to meet on campus.
"I don’t think we should be promoting anything whatsoever that has to do with sexuality... especially in a school that receives public funding," wrote state Rep. Dan Gordon (R-Tiverton) on a local blog, referring to Tiverton High School’s GSA. "I don’t think there would be much of a problem with bullying if students weren’t flaunting their sexuality in school."
Gordon further railed against the GSA.
"And this is why if I have anything to say about it; Tiverton will lose school funding to local charter schools," said Gordon. "It doesn’t matter if gay or straight, if sexual meet-up groups are being promoted in our schools rather than improving test scores, that school is failing. Is it really more important for our children to get ’sexed-up’, than learning advanced math?"
WRNI further reported that Gordon "also characterized the group as a ’sexual meet-up group".
The reaction to Gordon’s position drew a torrent of angry comments on his Facebook page.
"Hey Dan! I just wanted to let you know that you should be ashamed of yourself. Good luck dealing with the backlash, you terrible hatemonger," wrote Ryan LePage.
Bob O’Neil also blasted Gordon’s remarks. "Representative Gordon, shame on you for trying to defund your own school district simply because one of the schools has a gay/straight alliance," he wrote. "You need to pull your head out of your homophobic a** and your mind out of the gutter. You are a disgrace to your constituents and a disgrace to Rhode Island."
Karen Izzo, the mother of a gay son and the advisor to a GSA in Saunderstown, drafted a petition in response.
"Comments like those made by Mr. Gordon are the reason our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender teens suffer bullying and mistreatment in schools. Comments like these show a complete lack of understanding regarding romantic orientation," it reads. "Comments like these slander and wholly mischaracterize the important social justice role that gay/straight alliances fill in high schools and middle schools across our nation. Finally, comments like these demonstrate an alarming ignorance of constitutional law from an individual who swore to uphold the rights of all his constituents."
Izzo wants Gordon to issue an apology to GSAs across the state "for his derogatory and inaccurate comments regarding the nature of GSA meetings," and requests that Gordon visit GSA meetings and attend a diversity seminar.
Throughout the controversy, however, Gordon has repeatedly claimed he is not homophobic.
"I did fail in regards to this thing and perhaps not communicating fully," Gordon told EDGE on Friday, April 1. "It seems as though my comments have been latched on as being anti-gay, which is the furthest thing from the truth."
Peter Forrest, the faculty advisor to the Tiverton High School GSA, told EDGE he was "disturbed" by Gordon’s comments. "It was the assumption that he made about the group, about why these students chose to get together," said Forrest, noting Gordon’s belief that the school’s GSA was a "sex group" was "insulting to the students."
The students who created the GSA were "angry" and "confused" about Gordon’s comments, as well, Forrest explained.
"(Gordon) said he would like to meet with (the GSA) because he’s had conversations through the blog with the students," added Forrest. "He has had numerous opportunities to apologize for what he said. He’s never done that. He doesn’t seem to understand what the impact of his words was."