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Editorial: Student effort to form a gay-straight club shouldn't have become a federal case

Byshop Elliott says he just wants the Buffalo School District to “wake up.” It’s an admirable goal under the circumstances. If the district complies, it can save a lot of unnecessary expense, angst and confrontation.

Elliott, who is gay, recently filed a federal lawsuit accusing the district of discrimination over the refusal of a school principal even to acknowledge his request to form an after-school club for gay and lesbian students at McKinley High School.

It was a gutsy move by the 18-year-old, who was frustrated by Principal Crystal Boling-Barton’s disregard and who is supported in that frustration by the New York Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit.

It never had to come to a lawsuit. Had Boling-Barton paid attention to Elliott, it might not have happened. If the school, under her leadership, had allowed the club for gay and lesbian students, it might not have happened. If the School Board or Superintendent Kriner Cash had intervened, it might not have happened.

The good news is that there remains time to resolve this matter quickly and, to the extent possible, amicably. If that is to happen, though, Cash and the School Board shouldn’t rely on Boling-Barton.

She was once found by a special investigator to have instigated an “excessive” seven-week suspension to a student who criticized her for firing an assistant girls basketball coach. In the current matter, other city schools sponsor a Gay-Straight Alliance such as Elliott is proposing. Why not at McKinley? Why not at least an answer to the request?

Cooler heads need to take over. Authorize the alliance. Treat gay and lesbian students with respect. And don’t let this matter drag the district into a protracted lawsuit.

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