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Valley Students Ask District for Change to Facility Rental Policy

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Valley Stadium in West Des Moines, Iowa, on Tuesday, August 19, 2014. (REID CHANDLER/WHO-HD)

Valley Stadium in West Des Moines, Iowa, on Tuesday, August 19, 2014. (REID CHANDLER/WHO-HD)

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — Outraged by a Dowling Catholic High School decision to not hire a gay substitute teacher full-time, students at Valley High School are asking West Des Moines school board members to reconsider how they rent a football stadium the private school uses.

The Des Moines Register reports Valley students say there is a loophole in the district’s nondiscrimination policy, which includes protections for sexual orientation and gender identity but is not required of individuals or organizations that rent the district’s facilities.

Monday, students presented a petition, signed by nearly 230 students and community members, to revise the policy to require renters to sign an agreement that they would abide by the district’s nondiscrimination policy in their organization.

“Some people may be wondering if this has anything to do with the recent scandal at Dowling, and the answer is yes,” Valley junior Danielle Reyes said during the meeting’s time for public comment. “Rather than engaging in petty mudslinging, we should use this opportunity to examine how our school district can improve.”

But that could put into jeopardy a decades-old agreement that allows Dowling, which is located in West Des Moines, to use the school district’s field. Dowling officials could not be reached for comment Monday evening.

Liam Jameson, an openly gay junior at Dowling, spoke against any change that would prevent him or his classmates from using the field, which he said would punish students.

“I am in the drumline, and I enjoy using my talents on the field. Other people play football and soccer, and enjoy using their talents on their field,” Jameson said. “Students will be using the field, I’m sure not many administrators will be.”

And he referenced the school’s approval of One Human Life, a gay-straight alliance, as evidence that the school climate is changing. “It will be slow, but there are steps being taken,” he said.

But West Des Moines officials seem interested in at least reviewing the policy, with three of the seven board members expressing public support for doing so: President David J. Brown, and board members Elizabeth Brennan and H. Milton Cole-Duvall.

“It’s a big issue for our community and state and our nation,” said Brennan. “I think a very important step has been taken tonight, which is putting it out into the public to keep the conversation going.”

Cole-Duvall also commended students on their action, and referenced other country’s genocides and American civil rights movements before saying students are “on the right side of history.”

“We are trying to fix it so anyone feels safe,” said Valley junior Julienne Asbille, who is openly bisexual, after the public forum. “They should be required to follow the same rules as everyone else.”

Asbille and junior Maggie Wildermuth presented the petition, both members of Valley’s gay-straight alliance and founders of the school’s chapter of the Harry Potter Alliance, which aims to turn “fans into heroes” and promote activism by using themes in the popular books and movies.

“We are very sorry that Dowling possibly would not be able to use our facilities” if the policy is revised, said Wildermuth. “But until there’s change, we feel that they should be held to that because of the beliefs of our school district.”

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