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Welcome Jamila Bey!

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JamilaWe are thrilled to announce the hiring of our new Communications Director Jamila Bey!

Jamila spent ten years as a producer and editor at NPR, where she worked on shows like Talk of the Nation, Morning Edition, and All Things Considered. She recently hosted the hour-long radio show The Sex, Politics, And Religion Hour.

Jamila brings to the SSA a wealth of experience as a speaker and writer, and we are excited about her inside knowledge working as a member of the press. She was a debater all through high school and much of college, and has been a member of our Speakers Bureau for two years. She is passionate about STEM education, particularly advancing women and minority participation in STEM fields.

Jamila studied at Duquesne University, which as a private school has refused to allow an SSA affiliate group to form on campus. In her free time she is a debate and chess instructor, as well as a trivia ninja—to Jamila, Jeopardy! is a full-contact sport.

Please join us in welcoming Jamila Bey as the Communications Director for the Secular Student Alliance!

Aberdeen Central High School is Doing it Right!

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Sometimes, a school’s administrators do everything right.

About two weeks ago, the Secular Student Alliance was contacted by Adam, a student at Central High School in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Adam told us that, while forming a secular group on his campus, teachers complained and the principal told the group they needed to disband.

So, we reached out to Principal Jason Uttermark to find out more. There was allegedly district policy in place to not allow religious-oriented clubs or meetings to take place. This policy didn’t take into account the Equal Access Act, which allows for any extra-curricular campus group to be formed if any extra-corricular group exists. Once we brought this law to the Principal Uttermark’s attention, he handed it off to the superintendent and the school’s counsel.

Adam
Adam at Aberdeen High School will get his secular group!

Far too often, this situation results in the school fighting against equality, and the student being bullied, harassed, and ostracized from their community.  However, Aberdeen Public Schools truly wants what is best for its students. On March 10th, the school district’s attorney got in touch with us to let us know that the school was rescinding their decision to block the group, and that Adam would be able to build his community!

SSA  High School Specialist Andrew Cheadle-Ford had this to say on the situation, “I am so excited to see a situation resolve itself quickly and with the well-being of all students in mind. It is wonderful that Adam will be able to form this group and be in a school that supports his secular activism.”

Principal Uttermark and the Aberdeen Public Schools have been phenomenal to work with. This is a principal and a school district that clearly has the best interest of their students on their minds, and we are so thrilled to have been able to be partners with them to resolve this situation.

What a fantastic event series from SSA at ASU!

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Hello Friends,

Our affiliate groups hold amazing events all the time—debates, speakers, panels, volunteer work, and discussion groups are all a normal part of what our groups do every semester. However, some groups go above and beyond the normal run of events.

The Secular Student Alliance at Arizona State University is only in its second semester of existence, but they have a jam-packed semester planned! They are hosting an event series called Godless, and it includes something for everyone!

The SSA at ASU at their "Confessions of a Bible Belt Atheist" event with Speakers Bureau member Seth Andrews!

Pisgah High School Update

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Hello Friends,

We wanted to take a minute and share with you an update on what is happening with Kalei Wilson and Pisgah High School. As you know from our last update, the administrators agreed to let Kalei build a secular community on Pisgah’s campus a few weeks ago.

KaleiSince that time, as others have reported, Kalei and her family have had to deal with bullying and threats beyond what any person should have to face. No student should have to choose to either have a community and endure harassment and threats, or give up on community with the hope of bringing the firestorm to an end, but that is the unfortunate situation in which Kalei has found herself.

As many of you know, because of the bullying and harassment, Kalei has decided not to go through with creating a secular group at her school. The Secular Student Alliance has stayed in communication with Kalei and her family, and have been supporting them behind the scenes while so many others have been supporting them publicly. Thank you to everyone who has voiced, and continues to voice, their support for Kalei and her family.

Although creating and supporting groups is a big part of what we do, the Secular Student Alliance also empowers students who either lack that local community, or choose to be activists in a more individual capacity. Even without moving forward with a group, Kalei is still excited to be a part of the Secular Student Alliance and of the national community we have built and continue to build. Kalei is even planning to speak at our upcoming Annual Conference in Columbus, Ohio July 11-13!

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