Devin Leaman runs a high school Secular Student Alliance affiliate group in California. Perhaps you think it’d be easy for him to do that in a state like CA but, as this email shows, it’s much harder than it seems.
Devin starts by referencing the idea that it’s tough to find a teacher willing to sponsor/advise the group:
[That] is sadly very true. I say this because I’m a senior at Redlands High School and the President of the SSA club at my school. When we were starting it up this year we needed a faculty advisor and we couldn’t find anyone willing to do it. We talked to three different teachers before the final one finally pointed me in the direction of one of the few (if not only) Atheist teachers at my school. We went to him and he loved the idea.
Even after we started the group we faced quite a bit of hostility from people. Many people consider our school a very conservative school because the majority of the kids who attend happen to have parents who are deep in their faiths and their kids are beginning to follow it. We had made the club official with the school and everything was going great. We had planned on meeting three weeks later so we had time to plan things and spread the word of the new club. We are actually the very first club of this sort at my school from what I have been told, and it shows.
On the first week we took the flyers that the SSA had sent us as part of the packet they send out with our information on it regarding our contact information about meetings and such. We posted them the morning before school and easily had 100-150 flyers up before school had started.
By the end of the day, only three remained.
We knew it wasn’t just people tearing them down as a joke; we found pieces of our flyers all over the campus. A funny thing actually happened before we began to meet and that was everyone in the school — and I literally mean EVERYONE — knew about our club; but no one knew who the teacher sponsoring it was or who the president/vice president was. So I would sit in class and listen to kids talking down about us and laughing to one another when they would say, “Yeah, I tore a few of their flyers down and threw them away. They need to leave us alone.”
Then, I would inform them that I was the president and that I would appreciate it if they would quit tearing them down because they aren’t free. I’m a bit of a big guy so they tend to stop tearing down our flyers. After we began to meet, and things became a routine, the amount of vandalism of our flyers began to come down. We still hear quite a bit about people wanting to get us filed as a hate group or sent out of the school because we’re idiots and going to burn in hell (I’ve heard quite a few students say this word for word). But thankfully, our advisor is a smart guy and knows they have no reason to ban us from proceeding or doing anything. If things were to go down that path, we’d be more than willing to stand up for our right to have this club.
It takes a lot of courage to stand up as an atheist in high school, especially when you’re coming from a conservative area. I’m impressed by what they’ve done so far just to get the group started. Can you imagine the impact of a dozen groups like this? A hundred?
We need more young student leaders like Devin willing to put themselves out there so that other atheists can find them.
It also raises another question: What would you advise groups like this to do during their meetings?
Keep in mind that the rules/restrictions are much more stringent in high school than in college.