Buffalo Public Schools has placed the principal of McKinley High School on administrative leave and ordered staff at the school to help students in forming a Gay Straight Alliance. The move comes just days after a student filed a lawsuit with the New York Civil Liberties Union claiming the school's principal repeatedly ignored his request to form an LGBTQ group at the school.
A joint statement from BPS Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash and school board president Dr. Barbara Seals-Nevergold, released Friday afternoon, states:
The District has taken active measures to address the grievances contained in the NYCLU complaint regarding McKinley High School. The District always has and will continue to uphold the democratic principles of active citizenship, personal integrity, civility, and respect for others. Within that greater framework, the District has policy in place to ensure that students of the LGBTQ community are included and accepted in school activities throughout the District.
McKinley High School senior students were informed today, through acting school administrators and the superintendent's student support staff, that they may attend next week's prom with their guest of choice, under the age of 21, with NYS identification.
In addition, the superintendent has directed staff to assist students in the formation of a Gay Straight Alliance within the school as soon as possible.
18-year-old Byshop Elliott opened the lawsuit after trying, unsuccessfully, to create a Gay-Straight-Alliance at McKinley. The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) is representing Elliott and say students at the school have been trying since at least 2014 to create this type of club, but every year "the proposal is either ignored or outright rejected by [the principal]".
“I care a lot about the school, that’s why it’s so disappointing how it’s acted toward LGBTQ students,” Elliott, an 11th grade student, said. “Everyone should have a chance to feel included and excited about high school, including LGBTQ students. I wish this wasn’t still an issue today but it is.”
The NYCLU alleges in the lawsuit that Crystal Boling-Barton, McKinley's principal, has a history of "routinely, openly and systematically discriminating against LGBTQ students" and has denied several attempts by students to form a Gay-Straight-Alliance.
The lawsuit claims, "announcements over the loudspeaker warn that they are not permitted to bring a same-sex date to prom and that “couples” tickets are reserved for opposite-sex couples. If a girl dares to dance with her girlfriend at a school dance, the principal separates them."
“Schools should encourage kids who try to make the learning environment more inclusive for other students,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “But LGBTQ students at McKinley have met only discouragement, inaction and homophobia from the school and district charged with supporting them. This goes against everything New York stands for.”