Spectrum now Gay-Straight Alliance

Acceptance and diversity have long been pillars of Westminster’s core beliefs, supporting the variety of members within the community. The school is committed to sustaining an environment that is both nurturing and safe for everyone, regardless of race, class, gender, religion, and sexual orientation. Various clubs founded by students celebrate the rich spread of culture that represents the student body. Among these clubs is Spectrum, which focuses on giving students tools necessary to generate positive change and bringing attention to issues surrounding gender and sexuality.

“Right now, the group focuses primarily on raising awareness,” said club faculty advisor Brooks Batcheller. “It’s also about having a place where you can talk about issues you see and helping students change things that frustrate them about the school.”

This is Spectrum’s third year in motion. It began as a movement started by three juniors who decided it was necessary to form an anti-harassment group, though it has since evolved and now discusses topics from Islamophobia to homophobia.

“For me, it’s been the most impressive example of students working to change Westminster and working to make a lasting impact on the community,” said Batcheller. “It’s really amazing to see the transformative change kids can make.”

Since its formation, Spectrum has made several imprints upon the school. The most prominent example is the introduction of the Day of Silence, an event during which students across the nation take a vow of silence for a period of 24 hours. The difficulty of carrying out daily interactions without speaking symbolizes the oppression of students who feel silenced due to harassment and prejudices based on their sexuality. It is also meant to help allies of LGBTQ (lesbian-gay-bisexual-transexual-queer/questioning) students understand what their friends go through on a day-to-day basis.

“I felt the event was productive,” said junior Ramsey Fahs. “It was difficult because being silent for that long really makes you think about the suffering that a lot of LGBTQ kids go through.”

Though Day of Silence started as a small, grassroots program with a handful of students participating, it has now become a more significant occasion at Westminster. The club hopes to further its prominence by dedicating an assembly to the event, allowing for reflection on the posed issues.

“One of our main goals through Day of Silence is to have people watch their language and become more aware of what they’re saying,” said senior Sloan Krakovsky. “I’ve had friends who have been affected by what other people say without thinking.”

In addition to magnifying Day of Silence, Spectrum reached a milestone in its course this year by officially becoming a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA). The GSA is a nationwide organization meant to support LGBTQ youths by creating safe environments in schools, teaching student bodies about various phobias regarding sexual orientation, and fighting discrimination and bullying.

“Becoming an official GSA allows Spectrum to tap into the GSA network of Atlanta,” said Fahs. “This allows us to coordinate events, such as Day of Silence, with other GSAs across the city.”

Spectrum’s progress has faced a variety of setbacks, prominently difficulties with getting permission to become an official GSA, due to outside pressure.

“Anything we do is always really sensitive,” said Krakovsky. “But it’s very necessary – I think LGBTQ issues are a prevalent concern here.”

Fortunately, Westminster’s growing attention toward the problems of sexual orientation has made it possible for Spectrum to achieve this status.

“The school stance on affinity groups has changed, even in just the four years I’ve been here,” said Batcheller. “As it’s changed, the purpose and goals of our school have also changed to allow a variety of clubs on campus. I think it’s going to be great to see how the group evolves. It’s good to have an organization devoted to making the school safer.”

Despite these obstacles, Spectrum looks forward to a year with productive discussion, change, and results.

“Spectrum is really accepting of anyone, no matter what your beliefs are,” said Krakovsky. “It’s a place for open discussion about anything you feel concerns the rights of students. Everyone should come!”