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Principal Will Re-evaluate Policy Concerning Gay Couples at Dances

Principal Will Re-evaluate Policy Concerning Gay Couples at Dances

Posted - Dec. 4, 2004 at 8:25 p.m.



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WEST JORDAN, Utah (AP) -- A principal who wants gay couples to get permission slips from their parents before they can attend school dances promised to re-evaluate the policy after protesters held four days of protests across the street from Copper Hills High School.

Jason Atwood, 17, and his supporters won a small victory Friday when Principal Tom Worlton agreed to revisit the policy issued last month.

Worlton said he saw the policy as a way to alert the parents to the dangers their children might face.

"The kids themselves were expressing concern about harassment at the school dance, which is what generated my response," Worlton said. "That was not an attempt to get out of liability and not a response to deprive them from coming to the dance."

But Jason's father, Quovaudis Atwood, feared it would absolve the school of responsibility if anything were to happen to his son.

"I'm not at the dance with Jason. ... How could I be responsible for my son?" he said. "As long as I'm paying taxes to support that school, my son deserves every bit of protection, education, whatever that school has to offer."

With posters bearing slogans such as "Stop Discrimination" and "Give Gays a Chance," Atwood and a small circle of friends -- including his boyfriend, Tom Tolman, 15, of Granger High in West Valley City -- began their fourth day of protests Friday.

"I'm so proud of you," Tom's mother, Patricia Gilley, said after dropping him off. "You can't help who you love."

The protesters said they were subjected to insults, obscene gestures, egg throwing and snowballs from passing cars during the four days.

"I don't think that what's happening out there is good for anybody," said Worlton, who also said he received a stream of calls supporting his stand.

School officials on Friday took lunch out to the protesters, and invited them to a meeting with Worlton, which lasted more than an hour.

"We did make some progress," Atwood said.

Worlton said he couldn't promise he would change his policy, but he did vow to re-evaluate it and discuss it with school officials. Either way, he will make his decision in time for the prom.

Jordan School District officials said they stand by the principal and his right to make safety decisions.

"If we become aware of an issue that we believe would pose a harm or injury to a student," Superintendent Barry Newbold said, "we need to take reasonable action on it."

Administrators in neighboring school districts had differing views, however.

Louie Long, Granite School District's senior director of high school services, said all couples attending a dance should be treated equally.

"We wouldn't require permission slips from any other couples," said Long, a former principal at Cottonwood and Skyline high schools.

"We've chosen not to make (same-sex couples) a problem, and we've never had a bad experience as a result of it," said Martha Kupferschmidt, Murray district's director of personnel and student services.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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