over North America, high school students who want to end homophobia are
launching Gay-Straight Alliances or GSAs. These are clubs devoted to human
rights and human dignity, including the rights and dignity of gay, lesbian,
bisexual and transgender humans. These clubs usually have a social justice and
education focus. They work to change school policies and to educate their
staff and student bodies regarding gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender
people and about anti-gay harassment and violence. Their members may be of any sexual orientation or gender identity.
schools have also launched Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Students' Support Groups
through a health center or counseling program. Just as a lot of schools offer
support groups for empowering young women or young men, or for students who
want to stop smoking, some offer these GLBTQ support groups. These groups are
usually less focused on social justice activism than a GSA. They may be
recreational (a chance to hang out in a safe space once a week and play cards)
or support-focused (a place to talk about issues such as dating, getting
bullied, coming out, etc.). Some GLBTQ Support Groups invite participation by
straight allies (heterosexual students with a GLBT friend or family member or
who just care about the issue) and some restrict membership, for safety's
sake, to people who are, or who think they might be, sexual minorities.
Frequently Asked Questions
principal wants to change the name of
our proposed GSA to something like the "Gay Straight Alliance and
Diversity Organization." We'd address race issues anyway, but we don't
want to have to shift our main focus. Should we go to the school board?
Not right away. Depending upon the size of the school district, there's
usually one or more other layers of bureaucracy between the principal and
the school board and it would be really worth trying those channels. Does
your new GSA have a faculty advisor yet? That person might know who
supervises your principal (who s/he reports to). There may be an assistant
or deputy superintendent or else the principal may report directly to the
There may also be an office of equity issues
or something like that. Plus, the district's PTA president and/or counseling
or nursing supervisor may be able to intervene before it becomes a school
board level issue. I would ask around to see who, at your district offices,
has (a) been a friend in the past to these issues and (b) has the ear of the
If you do end up needing to go to the school
board, the ideal would be for one or two of you to talk in private with the
most supportive school board member over coffee, rather than starting with a
public confrontation in a board meeting.
And at every step in the process, bringing
along a parent or a school employee (teacher, counselor) may increase the
likelihood of the students' voices being heard.
our GSA have a right to meet during the
That depends upon the rules for other non-curricular (not
course-related) clubs. Your GSA must, according to the federal (U.S.)
Equal Access Act be treated the same way those other clubs are treated.
So if they meet during the day, you should be allowed to, too. For more
information on your legal rights, see
GAY-STRAIGHT ALLIANCES: COMMON LEGAL QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
from The National Center for Lesbian Rights.
3) QUESTION: Where
can we find the constitutions
or by-laws of other GSAs?
ANSWER: You'll find
some examples of GSA's constitutions linked from the GLSEN Colorado website
Letter from a GSA
A friend of Safe Schools
Coalition's GSA sent his school's administration a lovely letter asking for
some concrete protections and thanking them for what they have done to date.
Here it is (edited for confidentiality) as an example of what a GSA might do
if the problems at their school are not reaching resolution after verbal
- this page on
the GSA Network's site (1) addresses some of the reasons GSA's are
disproportionately white and (2) proposes strategies for addressing some of
those reasons and building diverse, anti-racist organizations!!
Dear Colleague - June 14, 2011 -
U.S. Department of Education sent this letter to schools saying
Gay-Straight Alliances must be allowed (law is not new, just a formal reminder).
This guidance accompanied the letter.
High School Homophobia: this page from Planned Parenthood's
Teen Wire web site explains what Gay-Straight Alliances are safe spaces for
-this fact sheet from the National Center for Lesbian Rights
explains the legal rights of students to form GSA's and your right to have
the same privileges for your GSA as for any other club. It is a simple
handout you could give to your principal; it cites which laws and lawsuits
confer those rights.
Straight Alliances in BC - (British Columbia, Canada): this site
includes an entire handbook!
Alliance Network - a youth-led organization that works to empower
youth activists fighting homophobia in schools. Useful if you are trying to
start a GSA at your school, keep it going, survey your student body, or
otherwise become active in the fight to end homophobia.
Alliances: A Student Guide - steps for starting an alliance, top ten
list of suggestions for awesome meetings, etc. From the Massachusetts
Department of Education.
GLSEN Student Organizing Email Listservs - email lists for which participants can either have
discussions or receive announcements and news. Subscription to a listserv is
done upon registration with Student Organizing. If you've registered in the past, but have a new email
address, or never joined in the past, please email your NAME, SCHOOL NAME,
NEW EMAIL ADDRESS and a LIST of the Listservs you wish to sign on to
email@example.com. The GLSEN
Student Organizing email listservs are:
- GSATalk - Email discussion list for youth working in GSAs in
K-12 schools across the country to discuss and share ideas, resources
and information. (student only; 5-20 emails/week - daily digest
- AdvisorTalk - Email discussion list for GSA Advisors in K-12
schools across the country to discuss and share ideas, resources and
information. (advisor only; 5-20 emails/week - daily digest available)
- Student Organizer - Bi-weekly email newsletters with GSA
resources, information, news and more. (both student & advisor; 2-5
- GLSEN Alert - Important announcements & alerts regarding LGBT
issues in education. (both student & advisor; 1-2 emails/week)
How to Have a Kick-Ass
- from the GSA Network.
Your Club's Purpose, Preparing for Meetings, Running a Good Meeting,
Creating an Action Plan, Sample Mission Statements.
a comic book featuring gay teen
superheroes in English, Japanese, Dutch, and French. It follows the
adventures of five friends who create a gay-straight alliance at their high
school for superpowered youth.
constitutions for Gay-Straight Alliances
- the GLSEN Colorado web site offers
three sample constitutions and more linked from their
"stuff for GSA's" page.
Transgender Inclusivity in GSA's
- this page on the GSA Network's site offers 10 concrete strategies for making
your GSA respectful of the gender diversity in your school as well as a glossary
and resource list.
View Gay-Straight Alliance clubs as partners
viewpoint by Carolyn Laub, founder and executive director of the Gay-Straight
Alliance Network. First published in the Dec. 10, 2002 issue of School Board
are your rights? A Q&A form for students during the Day of Silence
- At times students may face
obstacles when organizing the Day of Silence. In this document created by
GLSEN, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and Lambda Legal you will
find a set of questions and answers based on general legal principles.