The Gay-Straight Alliance club was approved 5-1.
The Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) student organization at the Volunteer High School has been approved by the Hawkins County Board of Education. Among six board members, five voted for GSA and one dissented. The sole dissenter was Pastor Tecky Hicks of Surgoinsville’s First Baptist Church. Hicks was adamant, and his dissent was noticeably fierce, saying he’d urge parents to pull their children from the school if the Board of Education voted yes.
The dominance of the Yes vote didn’t mean all board members were actually in agreement with the founding of the GSA. Some members voted for the approval due to their fears of finding themselves and the county school system in the mire of legal liability. This stance was even voiced by two members: Lawrence Giordano, the member who represents the board in times of litigation and Jim Phillips, the County Attorney acting as legal counsel for the Tennessee School Board Association. Debbie Shedden, the Vice-Chairman of the board, said she took the oath of office the day she became a board member to support not only the Constitution of Tennessee, but the Constitution of the United States. She said the decisions of the board may not mirror the personal beliefs, viewpoints, or convictions of the members.
Shedden went on to say the decisions made by the BOE consider a number of possible outcomes like probable lawsuits for the school system and also for the county. The money which would be spent on fighting a lawsuit would be better expended on the school system, including teachers and their students.
Hicks, the only one who pushed the dissenting vote, told the members of the board that he took an identical oath as Shedden, but believes the Bible supersedes not only the U.S. Constitution, but also the Magna Carta, Bill of Rights, state Constitution, school board policy, Mayflower Compact, and every other relevant factor. He reiterated since he held such beliefs, it will not be possible for him to approve such a club in a Tennessee school. He then illustrated a personal tale of his granddaughter, a second grader, declaring if the board approves the GSA, she will be pulled out of the school. He then asked every parent who has the privilege to pull their children out to do so.