High School Students Explain How They Overcame Their Administration and Began an Atheist Group

One of the stories I share in The Young Atheist’s Survival Guide is about Brian Lisco and his quest to start a Secular Student Alliance group at Stephen Austin High School in Sugar Land, Texas. Here’s the quick version as seen in USA Today:

Brian Lisco, 18, a senior [at] Stephen Austin High School in the Houston suburbs, found his efforts to form a club were delayed for three months by one hurdle after another. At one point the principal said he could have the club — if he just called it a Philosophy Club and did not affiliate with the Secular Student Alliance.

Lisco, however, wouldn’t give up the Alliance ties. He says,

We atheists are already invisible — we don’t come out. That’s a form of repression in itself. It’s about getting pushed to the margin of our community.

After a request for comment from USA TODAY, the school abruptly granted Lisco the Secular Student Alliance Club on Tuesday…

Last summer, three other students who were also involved in the group’s creation — Kaylin Martin, Courtney Russell, and [removed at student's request] — told the Humanists of Houston their version of the story.

They begin speaking around the 14:00 mark (and the audio gets much better at that time, too):


If nothing else, watch the portions from 21:30 – 23:00 and 26:50 – 29:45.

It’s not easy being an atheist in high school, even when you’re as motivated and organized as this group, when you have administrators trying to thwart you at every turn.

If any other parts stand out to you, please leave the timestamps and summaries in the comments!

(Thanks to Vic for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rusty.yates.7 Rusty Yates

    Industrial grade good!

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    Details about the letter mentioned at about the 12:00 mark can be found here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wwjtd/2012/07/want-to-know-what-the-high-school-secular-landscape-looks-like/

  • bernardaB

    With the discussion about women in the atheist community that is frequent at PZ’s site, this video is interesting in that the speakers are all women. It’s also nice to see those elderly folks with their questions and comments.

  • SeekerLancer

    Growing up my girlfriend lived pretty near Surgarland, TX and received death threats from kids at school on a regular basis for being an atheist or simply not agreeing with Christian stances on things. Either these kids are extremely brave, times are changing or both.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    I really admire the patience, determination, and confidence of these brave students.

    The story of the school administration’s stalling, foot-dragging, stonewalling, sabotage, vandalism, and outright lying, and then their craven sudden acquiescence the moment the spotlight of national publicity is pointed their way is beginning to be frustrating in its repetitive predictability. Maybe the whole process should start with the phone call from the newspaper reporter rather than end with it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1019365643 John J. Ronald

    Sugar Land (the city) is two words. Sugarland (one word) is a band, FYI.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

    Thanks. Fixed!