AJ school district pulls Gay Straight Alliance club from Bookmans contest - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Education News

AJ school district pulls Gay Straight Alliance club from Bookmans contest

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Posted: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 3:33 pm | Updated: 3:56 pm, Tue Feb 14, 2012.

Apache Junction High School's Gay Straight Alliance club has withdrawn from a chance to win $15,000 for its school after district and school leaders would not allow students to submit the video they created.

This is the fifth year of the Bookman's School Challenge, a competition created by the resale book, music and video store to give funds to Arizona's schools. In years past, the challenge has involved a race to read a large number of books. This year, the company - which has a Mesa location - decided to invite teachers, students and community members to nominate schools based on what they're doing for students or in the community.

Ten finalists were selected, including Apache Junction High. Those schools were then to submit videos about their campuses. The videos would be used by a committee - as well as the public through online viewing and voting - to narrow down the top three winners.

"We had hundreds of applications. Their (Apache Junction High School) application stood out," said Sheila Kressler Crowley, marketing director for Bookmans. "They were doing something innovative at their school and what we thought was progressive given the climate we're in."

That "something" is the Gay Straight Alliance, a club recently formed on the Apache Junction High School campus, according to an article in the school's student newspaper.

But there were concerns by school and district leaders about whether or not parents were aware of the video's creation, according to district leaders.

"The Bookmans issue was a matter of communication. We were not sure we had the proper procedures in place, or proper parental permission to submit a video that was to be used for something other than regular classwork and weren't able to fix the situation before the deadline," district spokesman Brian Killgore said.

Because there are no clear guidelines regarding the procedures, the district has suspended all club activity at the high school, Superintendent Chad Wilson said in a prepared statement.

"... it was decided to suspend activity for all clubs at the school to be sure they are operating under common guidelines. We are looking at this as a chance to better ourselves in the after-school offerings we provide our students. Unfortunately, this has also resulted in the decision to not submit the GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) Club's video project to the Bookmans School Challenge. However, once our video guidelines are addressed, we would much appreciate Bookmans posting the video from our GSA club," Wilson said.

There are currently 22 clubs in operation on campus, Killgore said. He did not have a count on how many students participate in those groups.

Bookmans spokeswoman Kressler Crowley said the club was given an extended deadline to reshoot the video without the underage students. Wilson said in an email that even with the deadline, there was not the time to re-edit the original video with the new footage.

If the club does submit the video, though the competition will be complete, Kressler Crowley said it will "absolutely" go online on the Bookmans' website.

"I hope that happens. I hope their community and parents give permission for students and kids to be a member of the alliance. If we get that video, we absolutely will put it up."

The videos for the nine other finalists - including Mesa's Brinton Elementary School - are online at http://bookmans.com/content/prepare-vote-2012-bookmans-school-challenge.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6549 or mreese@evtrib.com

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