Slow progress at Palmer High School

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The repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" last week begs the bigger question: What does this mean for LGBT Americans?

It "will have the larger consequences of moving forward the discussion of equality," says Anton Schulzki, a teacher and sponsor of Palmer High School's Gay/Straight Alliance, in an e-mail.

"We still have a long ways to go," Schulzki writes, adding, "It's 55 years since Brown v. Board of Education, we've elected an African-American President of the country and there is still racism and bigotry ... I am afraid to say that for the LGBT community, the prejudice and bigotry that exists now will exist in the future, though more and more people are opening their minds and hearts and that truly speaks for better days.

"As the saying goes, 'it gets better.'"

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And, Schulzki notes, it's slowly getting better at Palmer itself. In 2003, the ACLU and Palmer's GSA filed a lawsuit against the school, fighting for recognition as a student group. It took a while, but in 2005, D-11 settled and granted the alliance student-group status.

"When the club was finally given standing in the school in 2005, it came both as a relief and also increased battles," Schulzki writes. "Ironically enough, those who fought against the club largely on religious and moral grounds realized that in addition to the GSA being a recognized club, so too could Fellowship of Christian Athletes and prayer clubs. In many ways the recognition went well beyond GSA."

"The down side to the fight for club recognition was that it brought some unwanted attention to myself and my co-sponsor, and damaged both of us professionally."

With 30 to 35 active members and upward of 40 gathering at the GSA's lunchtime meetings, Schulzki says, "They are the reason the club exists. They do all the hard work, they were the ones who found ways to keep it going despite pressure not to. They are the ones who continue to keep it going and work hard to open the minds of others."

And other students seem to be catching on. "The students ... are the ones who are becoming far more tolerant than some of the adults in the building, though that is slowly changing." The club's Ally Week and Day of Silence have gained the participation of more students outside of the alliance and the administration "has been more open," giving the GSA a display case for the month of October for LGBT History Month.

Schulzki says students and administration at Palmer recently encountered some issues of bullying, and "the administration was very proactive in dealing with the students involved." But, he says, "the school district's policy of bullying currently does not address gender identity and that needs to be addressed."

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