School clubs for gay students move underground after Kentucky’s anti-LGBTQ law goes into effect


OWENTON, Ky. — During a school-wide club fair in this northern Kentucky town, a school administrator stood watch as students signed up for a group for LGBTQ+ students and their allies.

Back in Owenton, Ketron is working with Carver to plan a summit for Kentucky’s rural, queer youth. Ketron said she hopes the gathering will serve as a reminder for students that even though they may be isolated in their communities, there are people like them across the state.

But as of this fall, participating in a GSA is no longer an option for students at the Owenton high school. Boots, the school principal, wrote in an email that the club had changed its focus, to one geared toward addressing “social needs across a variety of settings.”

But according to Ketron, students said they were afraid to continue a club focused on LGBTQ+ issues in part because of SB 150. She offered to help students restart the club in the library, or at her house, she said, but members worried that would be too difficult because many of them have not come out to their families.

Ketron said she’s not giving up. “At its core,” she said, a GSA is “a protective factor and so very needed, especially in a rural community.”

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or the Crisis Text Line — text HOME to 741741 — are free, 24-hour services that can provide support, information and resources.

This story about LGBTQ+ students in schools was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for the Hechinger newsletter, and share your thoughts about this story at [email protected]

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