ORANGE, Calif. -- Anthony Colin says he sometimes walks the open air hallways of his Southern California high school in fear -- fear of being spit on and hit with rocks.

When he proposed a club in one of Orange County's most conservative school districts to combat ignorance of homosexuality -- which he says is behind such attacks -- he knew he would run into resistance.But he never expected it would polarize a community.

The debate has pitted parents against each other and even has threatened the existence of all clubs for the 2,000 students at El Modena High School.

"This whole thing has stopped being about my club," said Colin, 15. "It's become this debate by people about sex."

On Thursday, board members of the Orange Unified School District are scheduled to vote on the proposed Gay-Straight Alliance Club. The vote comes nearly a week after more than 400 people attended a heated public forum on the matter.

While reviewing campus clubs is generally routine, board members said public discussions were held because of the club's nature.

"This isn't like saying yes or no to any other club. It's an emotional and divisive subject," board President Terri Sargeant said.

Opponents say school is no place to deal with sexual issues.

Former school board member Max Reismuller has urged the board to fight the club, even if it means fighting the state and federal governments in court.

"I would do anything in my power to protect my children," he said.

But teacher Maryina Herde, who has offered to be the club's adviser, said the dispute "has nothing to do with sex."

"It has everything to do with the respectful treatment for all students -- it is their constitutional right," she said at last week's meeting.

Several people have suggested following the example set by school officials in Salt Lake City. In 1996, school officials did away with all clubs deemed unrelated to school curriculum rather than allow a homosexual club.

"That would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater," said Kendra Huard of People for the American Way, a legal defense fund, which supports the El Modena club.

El Modena High School sits in the middle of a tract of upper-middle class, single-family houses about 50 miles south of Los Angeles.

Its academic programs have consistently ranked among the best in the state. The school offers more than 20 clubs, including one for Christians and another for juggling.

"El Modena has the reputation of being one of the most tolerant in the state," said district spokeswoman Judy Frutig.

But sitting on a sidewalk across the street from campus, Colin and a group of friends said although the school may turn out good students, it fails when it came to tolerance.

"It's come to the point where I don't feel safe," Colin said. "There are places at school I can't walk through. I have to have somebody with me so I won't get spit on or hit."

Shannon McMillan, 17, another openly gay student, said people were missing the point of the club.

"We are asking for a support group and they think we are asking for a sex group," she said. "People need to stop hearing and start listening, because nobody is really listening to what this club is really about."