Georgia school divided over efforts to start gay student support group

Two students’ efforts to launch a gay-straight alliance at Fannin County High School has divided the small town, Channel 2 Action News reported.

Mason Rice and a friend hoped to start a student-led group to provide support for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students as well as their straight allies.

But opinions on homosexuality are sharply divided in Fannin County, and the students’ plans have quickly become the talk of the town, according to Channel 2.

“I feel like it’s very important because this town — there’s a lot of people who don’t support gay people,” Rice said. “I feel like if we had a support group to go to, that would be better for them.”

RELATED: Study: Gay students feel safer where gay-straight alliances exist

Not everyone agrees with those sentiments, however, and one student has started a petition to keep the would-be group off campus.

The petition, titled "Don't let homosexuality be pushed on students in Fannin County," has received nearly 1,300 signatures in the past week.

“I don’t believe that we should have any kind of sexual orientation clubs at our school,” parent Stephanie Ensley told the news station Tuesday.

In a letter sent home to parents and students, Fannin Principal Erik Cioffi addressed some of the controversy surrounding the alliance’s efforts.

“Although some of the comments and conversations have been healthy and appropriate, there have also been several that are inappropriate and harmful to our student body,” Cioffi wrote. “I will start off by reminding everyone that the students walking our halls and attending our school today are the same students that have walked our halls and attended school yesterday, last week, last month, etc.”

Under the school’s rules for starting a new club, it’s too late in the year for the gay-straight alliance to be started now, the news station reported.

To become a club, the letter said, an organization must be student-initiated, have at least 10 members and have a certified teacher as a sponsor.

An online petition started by Rice to get more support for his club has received nearly 2,400 signatures.

The top comment is from a former Fannin County student who said she was too afraid to come out in high school, but may have felt safer and more accepted if there was a club for students like her.

“I feel like there shouldn’t be any bullying,” Rice said. “I feel like we should all come together as a community and just accept people for who they are.”

Though it’s too late to start their club this year, the students say they will try again next year.