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Principal OKs dance for same-sex pairs

Superintendent says parental permission wasn't necessary

Published: Wednesday, July 29 2015 12:16 p.m. MDT

It appears that Copper Hills High School principal Tom Worlton has rethought his earlier decision that requires same-sex couples to obtain a parent's permission to attend dances.
The news has 17-year-old senior Jason Atwood relieved. He's calling off plans to protest the New Year's dance, and instead Atwood will enjoy it as a night out with his boyfriend.
"I am overjoyed," Atwood said. "It is a huge step for Copper Hills and a big step for our community."
Worlton's decision came after Atwood had expressed concern to school officials that he and his boyfriend be protected at the Sadie Hawkins dance.
In a Dec. 15 statement in response to an inquiry to the Jordan Board of Education, Superintendent Barry L. Newbold said the permission slips were "well-intentioned by the principal . . . verbal notice to parents of potentially harmful situations will be sufficient in the future."
Worlton was unavailable for comment Wednesday because of the winter break.
Worlton's decision to require the permission slips prompted protests by some students. The ACLU offered to step in. And it prompted Lambda Legal Defense to include Salt Lake City as one of 20 areas nationwide where it will air public service announcements aimed at high schoolers.
"It's an opportunity to correct that misinformation and make it clear that gay students have the right to equal treatment in school," said Michael Adams, spokesman for Lambda Legal.
The PSA features high school students discussing their rights, and refers viewers to www.lambdalegal.org.
Adams said of the four Salt Lake stations Lambda has pitched the PSA to, so far only the ABC affiliate (KTVX) has agreed to run the announcement.
KSL has declined to run the PSA, and Adams said he's still unsure about KSTU and KUTV. But Adams said because public service announcements are donated advertising, "each network has to make its own judgment. . . . We never expect every station in every market" to air PSAs.
Betty Huntsman, administration assistant for KUTV, said there's no guarantee the PSA will run, but it is one of 35 currently in a rotation to fill the one or two available slots each night.
Representatives of KSL, KSTU and KTVX did not return phone calls for comment.
Newbold's statement acknowledged the importance of tolerance and creating a safe environment for all students.
"The duty of the school district in conducting its activities is to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of all participants," the statement said.
Atwood said he's received some threats in the past month, but they haven't deterred his plans to go to the dance. He said he's confident school officials will live up to their "obligation and duty to protect us."


E-mail: dbulkeley@desnews.com

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