CCHS’ gender and sexuality alliance celebrates 30th year  

By Felicity Zhang   CCHS Correspondent
February 15, 2024

To its members, Concord-Carlisle High School’s Spectrum club is more than just an activity or even a coalition: it’s a community of shared commitment, tenacity, and most of all, hope. 

Spectrum, led by faculty advisors Bee Loprete and Ben Kendall, celebrated its 30th anniversary as CCHS’ gender and sexuality alliance (GSA) on January 24. The event was an evening of celebration and gratitude for progress made in LGBTQ+ rights within and outside the education system.   

For the alums and former teachers of CCHS who laid the foundation for Spectrum three decades ago, it was a full-circle moment to witness the project still thriving with the invigorated spirit of a new generation. At the same time, the speakers took the opportunity to urge the community to recognize the work that yet remains.  

Stephen Lane, a CCHS social studies teacher and published author, opened the presentation with a reflection on the history of LGBTQ+ movements in the education system from his 2018 book, No Sanctuary: Teachers and the School Reform That Brought Gay Rights to the Masses. He said that “too often, people in positions of authority [succumb] to the temptation to avoid controversy,” leaving a “space between the authority and the need for leadership” that has prompted the rise of student GSAs.   

In Massachusetts, in particular, the testimony and unrelenting rallying of students was “the deciding voice” in policies such as the Massachusetts Safe Schools program and the 1993 amendment to the Student Civil Rights bill that added protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation.   

Students and adults emphasized that each milestone has come after tedious periods of fighting – fighting for recognition, respect, and progress. Lane cited musician Brontez Purnell to highlight that even today, “the queer community still [needs] places to be and still [needs] to be ready to defend.”   

For 30 years, “Spectrum has been that place, and the students of Spectrum have been the ones ready to defend it simply by being that kind of place,” said Lane.   

State Rep. Simon Cataldo, a CCHS grad, presented club co-presidents Ben Neville (’24) and Alex Nugent (’24) with a citation from the Massachusetts State House. He further noted that his experience with the prior activism of Nugent and Neville has led him to believe that “if this is the future of this movement and of our society, then we’re going to be in really good shape.”  

Nugent and Neville both spoke about Spectrum’s frequent activism, from numerous walkouts to educating the school community about historical events: The students of Spectrum have stood up against opposition and backlash, including claims of indoctrination surrounding LGBTQ+ issues and protests against pride events.  

“We do a lot in the community trying to raise awareness and spread positivity because … homophobic and transphobic actions [are] ramping up in our community,” Nugent said.  

Citing the alarmingly high rates of sexuality-related abuse, suicides and other traumatic experiences, Neville added that “try as you might, you’re not going to make these kids happy by giving them a safe space that they [can] go to once a week or once a month … You need to give them something more. You need to give them hope that things are going to change.”   

Lane captured Spectrum’s continuing significance and legacy when he told students, “You’ll be asked to convince fearful people to join you; you’ll be asked to face down others who, out of their own blindness or anger or insecurity, will oppose you.”   

But, despite the unfairness of asking the “students to lead the fight” once again, he concluded, “We ask this … because there’s nobody better.”