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Two Ironwood students start LGBTQ+ group without school sponsorship

The LGBTQ+ group is not affiliated with the school, after the school board voted 6-1 against the group in November
Exterior of Luther L Wright School
Exterior of Luther L Wright School(WLUC)
Published: Dec. 2, 2021 at 6:21 PM EST
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IRONWOOD, Mich. (WLUC) - Two eighth-graders just started an LGBTQ+ ally club at Ironwood Area Schools. Hoping to create an environment for all students, Olivia Salazar and Reino Ranta had an idea.

“I think that having a safe space where students can come together and talk about what they’re facing, and it’s basically a social group. We can all get together and hang out,” said Olivia Salazar, Ironwood Youth GSA Co-President & Ironwood 8th grade student.

Ranta and Salazar presented their idea for a new LGBTQ+ ally group to the Ironwood School Board meeting in November. They hoped to be approved as a school-sponsored club. The school board voted no in a 6-1 vote.

“They cannot be just a school-sponsored group. The main differences are a school-sponsored group can use the name ‘Ironwood Area Schools,’ this group cannot. A school-sponsored group can use the business office for its financial agent, this group cannot,” said Clancey Byrnes, Ironwood School Board President.

The board president says the school principal and superintendent approved the club. Despite not being a school-sponsored group, the club can still meet and have a faculty advisor.

“Everyone on the board was very clear they support the group with the idea of it and praised the students for forming the group, they thought it was an excellent thing,” Byrnes said. “There were concerns about does it need to be part of the school and school-sponsored, or should it be better served as a community group.”

The name of the group is the Ironwood Youth Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), and they met for the first time this week.

“Explaining pronouns and preferred names is a huge thing,” Salazar said.

Brynes was the only board member who voted yes and says the dialogue shouldn’t end here.

“If they are interested in [becoming school sponsored] they should bring it to us and ask us. Not necessarily in a board meeting, but in an email. Ask ‘hey, what do you guys want to see?’ Start that dialogue,” Byrnes said.

Byrnes says two additional guidance counselors have been added in the last three years at the middle school and high school levels to help meet the needs of the students. Salazar says the club will continue to meet regularly and will decide later if they will present to the board again.

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