UPDATE 12/45/16, 2:30 PM: Outwire757 received word this afternoon that the Cox High School Gay Straight Alliance Student Assembly scheduled for tomorrow was abruptly cancelled by the Virginia Beach school superintendent’s office.
The reason given to the school principal, Randi Riesbeck, is that school clubs are not allowed to meet during regular school hours. The decision came after weeks of planning and coordination between the GSA, the Riesbeck, and the Superintendent’s office.
GSA faculty coordinator Victoria Milosevich tells us that the club was given two options to move forward: hold the assembly after school hours so that it conforms to regular club meeting guidelines; or hold an inclusive assembly during school hours that addresses the needs of all groups that feel unaccepted.
Milosevich plans to meet with her GSA student members tomorrow to address future options. If you would like to post comments of support for her students here, and she will read them at tomorrow’s meeting. We are in touch with the GSA and Victoria and will bring you developments as they unfold.
Cox High School math teacher Victoria Milosevich is looking forward to Monday.
She’s the faculty advisor to the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance, and on Monday, she and the GSA members will hold the first-ever Gay-Straight Student Assembly at the Virginia Beach school
“I don’t know this for sure, but this may a first in the state,” she said. “Either way, the kids are proud of the fact that they put this entire event together and that the school gave it’s blessing.”
Gay-Straight Alliances are becoming more commonplace throughout the country as sensitivity to the issues facing the adolescent LGBTQ community increases.
The goal of most gay–straight alliances is to make their school community safe, facilitate activism on campus, and create a welcoming environment for LGBTQ students and their allies. Many GSAs work with local chapters of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) or Gay–Straight Alliance Network, a national organization supporting youth leadership. The registered number of GSAs with GLSEN is currently over 5,000.
In Hampton Roads, GASs are at a majority of the schools with varying degrees of size and activity.
GSAs require a faculty member of the school to serve as advisor. Milosevich, who is straight, found out that the Cox GSA was forming and in need of an advisor, and she stepped up. Under her direction, the GSA meets regularly and has become a visible organization at the school.
But after one gay student was bullied last year, the GSA decided it was time to take action.
“It was their idea to hold a school wide assembly,” she said. “They wanted to offer the student body the opportunity to ask questions and become aware that many of the same old issues still affect LGBTQ students.”
Milosevich gained the approval of Randi Riesbeck, the school’s principal, and the group got to work inviting leaders of the LGBTQ community to speak, including Michael Berlucchi, President of Hampton Roads Pride, and Officer Michelle Meister, the LGBTQ liaison for the Virginia Beach Police department.
But the meat of the assembly will be a question-and-answer session in which members of the GSA and guests will respond to questions submitted in advance and anonymously from the student body.
As with all high school assemblies, students can opt out of attending, and Milosevich understands that some students may not choose to attend.
“Our goal is only to promote understanding and acceptance with those members of our student body who do want to learn more,” she said’ “And how wonderful is it that we can have that conversation in our schools.”