WEST DES MOINES (AP) — A West Des Moines Catholic high school has approved a request by students to form a school-based gay-straight alliance called “One Human Family.”
Dowling Catholic High School gave the approval for the club on Friday, The Des Moines Register reported.
The approval came a little more than two weeks after school officials drew criticism for opting to not hire a substitute teacher full time after learning the teacher was gay.
Dowling President Jerry Deegan sent a letter to parents on Friday saying the club will support students who may identify with same-sex attraction or have questions about it.
“Pope Francis has challenged us to be sensitive and provide a caring, compassionate, respectful environment for all of our students on their faith journey,” Deegan said in the letter.
Student organizers said One Human Family will be a safe place for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students, as well as their straight friends, to ask questions and get support for everything from homework to personal problems.
“I’m sure we’re going to get some backlash, but it’s a big step forward for students at Dowling and in the community in general,” said Liam Jameson, a junior who started a petition that garnered 1,700 signatures in support of the club.
Club organizers hope to convene a meeting before graduation next month. They’ve already been in contact with the Iowa Pride Network, which helps support gay-straight alliance youth organizations, for suggestions.
Grace Mumm, a sophomore who organized a walkout earlier this month to protest the school’s decision not to hire a gay teacher, said she’s confident the school will cooperate with students on the new club.
“I think it was the right time, and the right moment, to push for this,” she said. “Because we had so much support in the community, I think it helped a lot in getting it started.”