Gay-Straight Alliance club to be organized at high school

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MIDDLE TOWNSHIP – Joseph DeRitis remembers coming out to his friends between eighth and ninth grades.

Many people were supportive when they found out he was pansexual, said the 2011 Middle Township High School gradate. Pansexuality is where gender does not play a role in being attracted to someone.

Others were not so happy with the news. He even lost a few friends.

During DeRitis’ freshman year, he had an idea to start a club that would provide a safe haven for students. He decided to form the organization his senior year of high school, but by the time the school board looked over the idea, he was no longer a student, he said.

The idea had to be taken back to the drawing board.

Now, DeRitis’ dream is becoming true.

A Gay-Straight Alliance club is being formed at Middle Township High School.

 

The Board of Education approved the club at a meeting Thursday, Jan. 19. Neither board members nor parents commented about the club at the meeting.

“The GSA will provide a sort of safety net for students who may have gender identity issues, as well as provide a place where they can expect support from their peers and school staff,” said club adviser Deborah Dalfonso. “These students are often the most isolated, so finding a place where they can make connections and feel safe is extremely important.”

Dalfonso said the group will begin meeting in March. Initially, the organization’s meetings will probably be brainstorming sessions.

The club would also be a forum where students can share experiences.

Dalfonso said she would like to bring speakers to club meetings. DeRitis said he would like to talk with club members.

The 18-year-old is a student at Rutgers University and is involved with Queer Student Alliance at the college, among other organizations.

According to a research paper posted at the website of the Gay Straight Alliance Network, data nationwide show most gay, lesbian and transgendered high school students face bullying and homophobic remarks. Among the report’s conclusions was that schools with such organizations are safer for gay students, and that students in those schools are less likely to hear homophobic remarks.

“People don’t see bullying as a real problem,” DeRitis said.

He recalls other students yelling profanities at him in the locker room.

The paper said such organizations are open to all students, regardless of their orientation.

Dalfonso was not yet ready to speak in detail about the alliance after the board’s vote.


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