Check out 2007 YFEN Film Contest Winner Gay/Straight Alliance By Jamie Li
Students have been forming Gay/Straight Alliances that aim to create a safe, welcoming and accepting school environment for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students as well as straight students can address issues of harassment, discrimination, and bias based on sexual orientation. Since the first GSA formed in 1989, similar groups have started in more than 1,000 schools across the United States. Nearly 20,000 students are directly involved in GSA activities each year.
The majority of GSAs have started without any controversy or unwanted attention. Controversy usually results only if a school’s administration or board attempts to stop the group from forming. Some parents try and claim GSA’s are recruiting. When that happens, students turn to community or legal support, which raises the profile of the club and typically results in the school being forced by law to recognize it. That is exactly what happened in Orange County, California, and Salt Lake City, Utah , when school officials tried to stop GSAs from meeting.
The right of students to organize a GLBT group at school comes from the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights and is reinforced by the Equal Access Act of 1984, which applies to public schools that receive federal funds. If they allow more than one non-curricular group to meet at school during non-instructional times, they must allow Gay/Straight Alliances – even if a school disapproves of or disagrees with the group’s message and goals.
Links to Gay/Straight Alliances resources
- Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network, www.GLSEN.org, is “the leading national organization fighting to end anti-gay bias in K-12 schools. It combats the harassment and discrimination leveled against students and school personnel by creating learning environments that affirm the inherent dignity of all students, and, in so doing, teaches students to respect and accept all of their classmates– regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.”
- Gay-Straight Alliance Network, www.gsanetwork.org is a youth-led organization that connects school-based Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) to each other and community resources. Through peer support, leadership development, and training, GSA Network supports young people in starting, strengthening, and sustaining GSAs and builds the capacity of GSAs to: 1. create safe environments in schools for students to support each other and learn about homophobia and other oppressions, 2. educate the school community about homophobia, gender identity, and sexual orientation issues, and 3. fight discrimination, harassment, and violence in schools.