Once again, a controversial proposal to require Georgia’s public school students to obtain a parent’s permission before joining an extracurricular club is back in the hands of the state legislature.
Late last month, a Senate education committee passed a bill requiring such permission after virtually no discussion.
Under the proposed legislation, which was sponsored by state Rep. Bobby Reese, a Republican, parents would need to be notified of the name of the club or activity their children want to join. The parents would also have to be informed of the purpose or mission of the group, the name of the club’s faculty adviser, and a description of its previous or planned activities.
While lawmakers who support the bill say they’re not targeting any specific student club or group, the proposal is largely seen as an attempt to head off the development of gay, lesbian, and straight clubs.
Conservative organizations in the state, such as the Christian Coalition and the Eagle Forum, back the plan and say that parents have a right to know if their children are joining something that goes against their values.
The issue surfaced in Georgia after a controversial gay-straight club was formed in rural White County last year. After first allowing students to establish the club, school officials there eliminated all non-academic clubs following protests by conservative Christians.
But the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia argued that such bans violate the Equal Access Act, which was passed by Congress in 1984 and allows noncurricular clubs to be formed at school. School officials can only prohibit clubs that disrupt the educational mission of the school, the group argued.
This isn’t the first time the issue has advanced in the legislature. It was first introduced during last year’s session, but was put on hold after state schools’ Superintendent Kathy Cox asked members of the legislature to let the state board of education take up the matter. The proposed policy—which is opposed by the Georgia ACLU—was rejected by the board on a 10-3 vote in June.
Officials from the Georgia ACLU did not return calls seeking a comment on the latest proposal.
School officials have opposed the idea. While such parental involvement might be appropriate, the Georgia School Superintendents Association says that if the bill becomes law, it “would create onerous administrative expectations for school staff members.”