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Holyoke School Assembly Controversy

HHSHOLYOKE, Mass. (WGGB) — A recent school committee meeting in Holyoke got heated, after a committee member tried to take the power away from school principals in controlling the content of all assemblies. This, on the heels of an upcoming assembly by the Holyoke High School Gay Straight Alliance.

The controversy stems from what School Committee Member Cesar Lopez says is a failure on the school’s part to alert parents. But Holyoke Mayor, Alex Morse – who is openly gay – disagrees.

At a school committee meeting Tuesday, Lopez proposed changing the way assemblies are approved in schools – taking that power away from principals and giving it to the school committee. Mayor Morse, also on the committee, says the move was prompted by an upcoming assembly at the High School put on by the Gay Straight Alliance… a group Morse founded.

“We have a lot of young people at Holyoke High School that are openly LGBT… and so, for a group of adults – one in particular last night – to through policy try to prohibit the expression of our young people sends a really negative message about what we think as a community,” said Morse.

The mayor contends the Gay Straight Alliance assembly is about inclusion, education, and anti-bullying, and not alternative lifestyles… the reason he says some are taking issue with it.

But Lopez and City Council President Kevin Jourdain, who both brought up concerns last night, say the problem is parents didn’t have proper notification and weren’t allowed to opt their children out- something they say is against the law.

Both cite Massachusetts general law, chapter 71, section 32a ‘Parental Notification’ which states in part “parents are notified about any curriculum that primarily involves human sexual education or human sexuality issues.”

Neither Lopez nor Jourdain were available to comment on camera, but Jourdain did release this statement to us “there was insufficient parental notification” and “the schools need to make sure they follow the law.”

Mayor Morse says in this case the law just doesn’t apply. “It’s about anti-bullying, it’s about protecting people, it’s about making people feel safe at school. This has nothing to do with sexual activity whatsoever and if you think that you need to get your head out of the sand.”

Morse rebuked Lopez for about 10 minutes last night and Lopez’s proposal was defeated on voice vote.

The Holyoke High School Gay Straight Alliance assembly is tentatively set for February 15th, and it’s not the first time they’ve held it. In fact, Morse says he organized the first one back in 2006.

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