The Northern York County school board approved the Northern Gay-Straight Alliance organization earlier this year, despite some initial concerns about the group from board members.

The high school group is officially recognized by the district and will have a place to meet in the school, said superintendent Eric Eshbach.

In the past year, Eshbach said the district reworked its policies regarding student organizations so all groups are treated equally within the school. At the same time, the board developed criteria for any students who would like to form a new group.

The students interested in starting the gay-straight alliance went through that process, Eshbach said, and found an adviser, wrote a purpose statement and bylaws and developed a budget. As in most cases, Eshbach said the alliance will not have a budget, but is planning to meet during the club times at school.

Eshbach said when the proposal was first introduced to the board, some members voiced concerns, saying they thought the group was similar to other tolerance-related clubs and expressed concerns about the group's bylaws.

For example, Eshbach said students originally were going to sign a confidentiality agreement, which some board members thought could translate into "secret meetings." The students removed that requirement from the bylaws before it was approved, Eshbach said.

Approval: But the board approved the group unanimously after the students addressed those concerns and made some changes to the organization, despite public comment against the group.

Eshbach said approving the group upholds the board's previously approved policies for creating new groups and gives the students a place to meet.

"We have other clubs that people will disagree with, but we don't exclude them, so we're going to follow the law," Eshbach said.

The group's purpose is to provide a place of acceptance for students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered or questioning, Eshbach said. He added the group is also for straight students who identify as "allies" to the LGBTQ community.

Northern is one of the last districts to approve such a club, Eshbach said, and the organization furthers the school's mission to offer a safe and protective environment for all students.

"I think it is most appropriate for them to have a place to meet," he said.

— Reach Nikelle Snader at nsnader@yorkdispatch.com.