Wando High School’s cafeteria is set up much like a mall food court. You won’t apron-wearing employees handing out tooth-picked samples, but you will find a Smart Mouth Pizza, a restaurant you’ve never heard of because it’s owned and operated by the Charleston County School District.
The one familiar eatery in the whole place: Chick-Fil-A. But not if two students from Spectrum, Wando’s gay-straight alliance, have anything to say about it.
The school district has a special agreement with Chick-Fil-A that allows the fast food restaurant to operate out of Wando. (Jason Sakran, an employee in CCSD’s planning, marketing, and communications department, confirms that the school district has a contract agreement with the chain at a number of schools, including Wando, which reflects some profit for the district.) But Singer is working with the alliance’s president, Austin Bucholtz, in circulating a Change.org petition that asks CCSD to remove Chick-Fil-A from the high school’s cafeteria.
Singer asserts that Chick-Fil-A President and COO Dan Cathy’s comments in support of traditional marriage aren’t the issue here, but rather that the company, through its the WinShape Foundation, donates money to anti-LGBT organizations, including Exodus International, which tries to turn gay kids into straight kids through "reorientation" therapy. “Austin and I have been following the controversy surrounding — and boycotting — Chick-Fil-A for a while now, and we thought that because of the recent media attention it has received, now would be a perfect time to take action,” she explains.
The students reached out to their school principal, Lucy Beckham, via e-mail, and were told that the administration could not take a stance on either side of the issue, since that would cause further controversy and take away from learning. Beckham was unavailable for comment.
“We absolutely understand and do not expect our administrators to take a personal standpoint one way or another,” Singer says. On the other hand, they wan ttheir high school to be a safe and positive place for all students, including the LGBT ones.
The petition has been promoted in social media by celebrities like pop star Pink and blogger Perez Hilton, as well as the national NOH8 campaign. “The celebrity attention has also helped kids at our school to realize that what we’re doing isn’t just a problem at our school,” Singer adds. Bucholz and Singer have also received a positive response from some of their fellow students, but there has been an angry backlash as well. Singer says some of her peers have gone so far as to attack their Facebook pages or send angry text messages, but she says that the counterblast is pushing them to try harder to get the word out.
Once successful, Singer and Bucholtz plan to take the petition to the CCSD school board and explain their case.
“High school is a place for finding yourself, and LGBT teens should never have to find themselves reduced to second-class citizens,” Singer says. “Unfortunately with the donations made to anti-gay organizations, Chick-Fil-A is supporting not having the rights to marry, to adopt children, to be heard, and from having a future equal to any straight individual, and money speaks volumes. This is not something we need in our school.”
Last we checked, the petition had cleared 1,000 signatures, well on its way to the 1,500 desired. Sign it here.