Alums defend high school GSA

WEST MILFORD. School board member William Cytowicz says speakers at the meeting changed his mind about the Gender Sexuality Alliance.

| 23 Aug 2023 | 03:58

Several alumni of West Milford High School defended the school’s Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) during the Board of Education meeting July 18.

They came to the meeting in reaction to comments by board member William Cytowicz at the June 20 meeting.

He had proposed tabling a resolution to approve advisers of the GSA and other clubs.

“When sexuality is discussed between an adult and a child, my hope is that there’s a professional adult involved and professionally trained,” he said, referring to the 2018 arrest of a club adviser on a charge of lewd behavior.

“Sex is never discussed,” Tina Signorelli, the GSA adviser, told the board during public comments July 18. “Our mission is simply to provide a safe place for students.”

Wendy Becker, who has two children at the high school and another who graduated recently, said her children have found the GSA to be an inclusive club and “a safe supportive haven for LGBTQ+ students and their allies.”

Becker, who also is a social worker in the West Milford School District, said Cytowicz erroneously tried to link the GSA to an unrelated situation several years ago in which a former PE teacher and coach was found to be having an inappropriate relationship with a student and player.

”Implying that any past or present ‘grooming’ of students is somehow related to the GSA club is a false and slanderous claim.”

High school history teacher Cheryl Botsolas read a letter from a graduate and former GSA member. It pointed out that the club provides a safe space for a vulnerable group and connects LGBTQ+ students with allies, “letting them know they aren’t alone and that there are people at school who they can relate to and confide in.”

“You cannot feign concern for your students’ well-being while suggesting we eliminate the one space where they feel wholely accepted by their peers,” the letter said.

Eliminating the GSA would tell LGBTQ students that they are not welcome at West Milford High School, according to the letter. “You will make them feel isolated. You will make them feel unwanted. You will make them feel alone.”

After the comments, Cytowicz said the speakers had changed his opinion.

“I do want your rights protected and I do want you to feel safe. ... I didn’t know the impact that something like this would have.”