FOUNTAIN VALLEY — Lining both sides of the street in front of Fountain Valley High School, about 150 students cut classes Monday to protest the presence of a gay support group on campus.
The noisy but mostly peaceful demonstration occasionally drew honks from passing cars, including a Westminster fire truck from which at least one firefighter waved at demonstrators in apparent support.
But the protest upset some students on campus.
"It's disgraceful," said Angela Pagoulatos, 18, of Fountain Valley. "You can't be proud of your school. I'm embarrassed."
Waving American flags and clutching cardboard signs with messages such as "Gays Go Home," many of the protesters wore white T-shirts with the acronym for Future Good Boys of America--a recently formed group--on the front and the words "No Gays" with a line through them on the back.
Members of the support group "are basically promoting sodomy and homosexuality," said Robert Dodge, a spokesman for the protesters, who added that Future Good Boys of America was recently formed to promote "strong morals" at the high school.
"We don't think homosexuality should be taught in school," he said. "Schools are not the place to promote sex. They can meet under a tree like they have for the past 2 1/2 years."
Jim Fuller, 35, of Huntington Beach, was one of several parents who joined the demonstration.
"Love the people, reject the sin," said Fuller, the father of three Fountain Valley High students. "They should not be given a classroom, they should not be given a teacher to promote homosexuality among children."
The Fountain Valley Student Alliance, as the support group is known, has about five members who are gay, and its meetings are also attended by about 20 heterosexual students, said school Principal Gary Ernst. Students discuss such topics as how to get along with parents, teachers and other students, Ernst said.
"What they don't talk about is sex," he said.
The alliance began meeting in a classroom on Fridays last month after receiving approval from school administrators. The group is not an official school "club" because it does not relate to the curriculum, but it can meet under a district policy that allows religious and other groups not affiliated with the curriculum to use school facilities.
During Monday's protest, Elizabeth Lunetta, 17, ventured up to the demonstrators during lunch to voice her opinion that students, whatever their sexual orientation, should have the right to a support group on campus.
"What does the American flag mean?" she asked of a protester carrying the flag. "Freedom," Lunetta said.
A heated argument ensued and Lunetta was quickly shouted down by a group of mostly male teen-agers and eventually backed off into the parking lot.
"I'm just really upset now," she said to her friend Audrey Wolfe, 18. "I'm shaking."
Wolfe condemned the protesters' belief that "homosexuality is at the bottom of the deterioration of our society."
"I think that hatred is what's at the bottom of the deterioration of our society," she said.
Other students called the protesters "hypocrites" for invoking the Bible while promoting hatred in their arguments against homosexuality, and some said the protesters just wanted to cut class.
However, the protesters said they are concerned that Fountain Valley High will become known as a "gay" high school, that the support group will attract more gay students next year when the school begins accepting students from other districts, and that gay students will "try to influence behavior."
"If there are gays that's fine, but no organized club," said Chris Goodwin, 18, standing next to his girlfriend, Holly Rogers, 17.
Rogers said she was asked by school officials to leave her post as an office assistant because she was wearing a Future Good Boys of America T-shirt.
"They said either get suspended or go outside," she said.
A police officer was stationed on campus to make sure that the protest did not spill onto school grounds. No problems were reported.
Ernst said that students who participated in the protest will "suffer the consequences of a non-excused absence," such as not being allowed to hand in missed homework. He added that protesters were not being threatened with suspension, as some students charged.
"Our goal is to create tolerance of diversity, not antagonism," Ernst said. "The kids (in the Student Alliance) have a right to meet. It's guaranteed by law, and I don't have a right to violate that law."