What Are "Gay-Straight Alliances" and Should They Be Allowed in Public Schools?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
The Gay-Straight Alliance Network, a youth leadership organization in California, wrote in its website article "Overview of Gay-Straight Alliances: What Is a Gay-Straight Alliance?" (accessed Jan. 22, 2008):

"A Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) is a student-run club, typically in a high school, which provides a safe place for students to meet, support each other, talk about issues related to sexual orientation, and work to end homophobia. Many GSAs function as a support group and provide safety and confidentiality to students who are struggling with their identity as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or questioning.

In addition to support, some GSAs work on educating themselves and the broader school community about sexual orientation and gender identity issues. They may bring in outside speakers to cover a particular topic such as GLBTQ [Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, or Questioning] history. They may organize a 'Pride Week' or 'GLBTQ Awareness Events' and offer a series of educational workshops, panels, and pride celebrations. Many participate in the Day of Silence, a day when participants remain silent all day as a way of acknowledging the silence induced by homophobia in our society. Some GSAs organize a 'Teach the Teachers' staff development day which focuses on teaching school staff how to be better allies for GLBTQ students. For example, GSA members would present scenarios about discrimination or harassment and get teachers to brainstorm how to respond to those situations.

Other GSAs are activist clubs and have worked to get GLBTQ issues represented in the curriculum, GLBTQ related books in the library, and progressive non-discrimination policies implemented at a district level."

Jan. 22, 2008 - Gay-Straight Alliance Network 
Overview of Gay-Straight Alliances: What Is a Gay-Straight Alliance? (1.4 MB)  

Peter Sprigg, MDiv, Vice President for Policy at the Family Research Council, stated in his Nov./Dec. 2002 Family Policy article "Steering Them Wrong: How Schools Push Kids to Accept Pro-Gay Dogma":

"A more important task for pro-homosexual activists -- indoctrinating the children themselves -- usually begins with formation of a student club called a 'gay-straight alliance' (GSA). GSA's are often said to promote 'safety' and give gay, 'questioning,' and 'straight ally' youth a forum to 'discuss sexual orientation and gender identity issues.'

However -- as with other pro-homosexual school policies -- gsa's often take on roles that go far beyond insuring safety and a place to talk. For example, GLSEN's [Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network] article on '20 Ways Your GSA Can Rock the World!' includes: getting pro-homosexual books in the school library; protesting examples of 'heterosexism' (such as 'gender specific' bathrooms); participating in gay 'pride' marches; and 'outreach to middle schools.'"

Nov./Dec. 2002 - Peter Sprigg, MDiv 
Steering Them Wrong: How Schools Push Kids to Accept Pro-Gay Dogma (68 KB)  

PRO (yes)

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) wrote in its 2007 research brief titled "Gay-Straight Alliances: Created Safer Schools for LGBT Students and Their Allies":

"There is compelling evidence that the majority of [LGBT] students frequently hear homophobic remarks and other types of biased language at school, and that LGBT students experience bullying and harassment at school because of their sexual orientation and/or their gender expression. These experiences contribute to a hostile climate and some LGBT students choose to miss school in order to avoid negative experiences that threaten their safety.

Findings from a growing body of research demonstrate the positive impact that school-based resources, such as clubs that address LGBT student issues (commonly known as Gay-Straight Alliances) may have on school climate."

2007 - Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network 
Gay-Straight Alliances: Created Safer Schools for LGBT Students and Their Allies (138 KB)  

The National Center for Lesbian Rights wrote in its July 2003 article "Gay/Straight Alliances":

"Under the Equal Access Act (EAA), a federal law passed in 1984 that applies to all public secondary schools that receive federal funding, a secondary school that allows student-initiated non-curriculum-related clubs to meet on [school grounds] during lunch or after school cannot deny other non-curricular student groups access to the school or otherwise discriminate against the group due to the content of the students' proposed discussions...

Under the EAA, if a public school allows at least one non-curriculum related student group to use its facilities for a meeting place during non-instructional time, it cannot 'deny equal access or a fair opportunity to, or discriminate against' any students who wish to conduct club meetings, such as a GSA. This means that the school must give the GSA the same privileges as other clubs, including access to such things a meetings spaces, bulletin boards, use of the PA system, etc.

Failure to grant a GSA the same privileges may also violate the Equal Protection Clause of the federal or state constitutions, the First Amendment, and/or state statutes prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation."

July 2003 - National Center for Lesbian Rights 
Gay/Straight Alliances (109 KB)  

The Massachusetts Department of Education wrote in its July 15, 1995 resource guide titled "Gay/Straight Alliances: A Student Guide":

"The third Board of Education Recommendation on the Support and Safety of Gay and Lesbian Students encourages schools to offer school-based support groups for gay, lesbian and heterosexual students...

Methods of providing this kind of support will vary from school to school, depending on the goals of the organizing group and the climate of the school. Because Gay/Straight Alliances have been successfully formed in more Massachusetts schools than any other type of support group for gay, lesbian and heterosexual students, this guide focuses on how to start and maintain such a group...

School-based support groups can provide students with a place to meet and talk about issues related to sexual orientation. These groups can help to change the climate of a school and make it safer for all students. There are also numerous community-based groups that reach out to young people...

The goals of school-based support groups are:
  1. to provide safe places for gay, lesbian and heterosexual students to meet in school;
  2. to offer opportunities to learn and teach about the challenges surrounding sexual orientation; and
  3. to build community spirit, mutual understanding and support among gay and lesbian students and their friends...
Gay/Straight Alliances are student-run and have a limited number of faculty advisors, usually two, who help facilitate the group, offer resources and support, and mediate discussions."

July 15, 1995 - Massachusetts Department of Education 
Gay/Straight Alliances: A Student Guide (94 KB)  

The California Safe Schools Coalition noted in its 2006 research brief "LGBT Student Safety: Steps Schools Can Take":

"School safety is a problem in California: date from the 2000-2001 California Kids Survey, which included over 237,000 California students, show that 7.5% of students in 7th, 9th, and 11th grades report being bullied based on actual or perceived sexual orientation. But what steps can schools take to promote school safety for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students? We conducted the Preventing School Harassment (PSH) survey in 2003, 2004 and 2005 to answer this question...

Steps Schools Can Take: ... Step 3: Support the establishment of a Gay-Straight Alliance or similar student club.

Having a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) is linked with feelings of safety at schools."

2006 - California Safe Schools Coalition 
LGBT Student Safety: Steps Schools Can Take (183 KB)  

Kerry Pacer, an 11th grade student at White County High School in Cleveland, Georgia, wrote in a Jan. 2005 handwritten letter to her school's principal, as presented as evidence in her legal case, PRIDE v. White County School District:

"I believe that starting a GSA (gay/straight alliance) would be very helpful twarts [sic] the antibullying policy. Many LGBT students get bullied everywhere and we must stop it!

Bullying gets in the way of education. That's why states like Georgia must laws [sic] against it.

LGBT students probibly [sic] expirence [sic] it worse than others. Many LGBT students have a hard time accepting themselves let alone trying to be accepted at school.

Starting a GSA would allow LGBT students and anyone else to talk and let out their feelings without feeling embarassed [sic] or ashamed. If we had a safe ground for students to go to, we could help build up self esteem, and even try to gap the bridge between LGBT and others who have a hard time accepting differences.

There are many people whom have already agreed to partake in helping get a GSA started. I am in the Gainsville chapter of PFLAG (parents and friends of lesbians and gays) -- their encouragement and support has made me confident to believe that this can be done. I believe we can make a change and a difference."

Jan. 2005 - Kerry Pacer 
Kerry Pacer's Jan. 2005 handwritten letter to her school's principal (91 KB)  

CON (no)

Linda P. Harvey, founder of Mission America, wrote in her article "No 'Equal Access' for Homosexual Clubs," published on the Mission America website (accessed Jan. 23, 2008):

"[A]ccording to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), as of the end of 2002, almost 1700 homosexual clubs now exist in schools in the U.S. So why not a tattoo club? Or a Marlboro club? Or a pornography club? Or a diet pills club? Or a drag racing club? Or a nudists' club? All are unacceptable activities, and we are unaware of any such organizations in U.S. high schools.

Yet clubs centered around a known high-risk behavior like homosexuality are allowed, sometimes even encouraged...

What will be the future pay-outs for the district when the fifteen-year-old who is seduced into homosexual behavior through attendance at 'gay' club meetings contracts AIDS, and in six years when he is 21, sues your district?

A school club will imply that homosexual behavior is acceptable and non-threatening, and if a school district wants to maintain otherwise, then why NOT a smoking club, or a Ku Klux Klan club? The reason is, of course, to avoid any implication of school endorsement of certain behaviors or philosophies, as well as for liability reasons.

The same argument should apply to homosexual clubs. If your school has a non-discrimination code citing 'sexual orientation,' it will be harder to fight a homosexual club. A very valuable step would be to revoke that code, but if it must remain, it can be argued that this code was only meant to increase politeness and civility, not to endorse these behaviors. You need to establish your own definition of the squishy term 'discrimination' before they do."

Jan. 23, 2008 - Linda P. Harvey 

Citizens for Community Values states in its website publication "School Districts, Children and Gay Straight Alliances" (accessed Jan. 23, 2008):

"By arguing for the absolute right of a student to organize any club, GSA advocates willfully ignore two 'safe harbor' provisions within the EAA [Equal Access Act] which grant school districts the right to exercise discretion regarding the formation of non-curricular clubs.

First, Section 4071(c)(4) of the Equal Access Act [EAA] requires that a meeting not 'materially and substantially interfere with the orderly conduct of educational activities within the school.' Those who argue that a school district has no interest in the manner in which an non-curricular activity impacts a school's ability to carry out its educational mission ignore the plain meaning of the statute.

Secondly, and more significantly... the act emphatically declares the authority of the school shall not be compromised as it seeks to 'maintain order and discipline' or to, 'promote the well being of students.' Reliance by a school board upon an advocacy group's assertions that any and all clubs be allowed to meet is an absolute refusal of the express intent of Congress as contained in the Act...

In the culture war that has enveloped this country, our public school system has become a hotly contested battleground. Without question those proponents of the homosexual agenda seek to gain an advantage by eliminating the possibility of an unbiased education, thereby preventing school children from making critical and informed decisions regarding sexuality, morality and the society good.

If our children are entangled in the deceptive lies of 'tolerance' without discernment, it is not only that they are trapped, but future generations of children who are subsequently brought into this world. As parents and as taxpayers, we have the right and the obligation to ensure that our public school system offers the children of today the proper knowledge base and skills to make the decisions for tomorrow."

Jan. 23, 2008 - Citizens for Community Values 
School Districts, Children and Gay Straight Alliances (57KB)  

Parents and Friends of ExGays and Gays (PFOX) wrote in its Nov. 19, 2006 website posting titled "How to Respond to a Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA) Club at Your School":

"First, explain why PFLAG, GLSEN and GSA do not provide 'Safe Schools':

  • They lack tolerance and inclusion towards the ex-gay community with respect to school events and presentations on sexual orientation...
  • They call for censorship of ex-gay materials and discussion in our nation's schools. Instead of presenting all of the facts on sexual orientation in a fair and balanced manner, confused and impressionable youth are encouraged to prematurely label themselves as gay and thus ensure a future homosexual outcome that may be unnecessary.
  • They recommend books on homosexuality for youth that teach 'do what feels right to you' and that self-restraint on sexual choices is foolish. How can this philosophy of 'anything goes' and enthusiastic promotion of sexual alternatives then condemn ex-gay alternatives as an option for at-risk youth?
  • They discriminate against struggling teens by denying a student's right to receive information on counseling for unwanted same sex attractions. ...
  • Teenagers' same-sex attractions do not automatically mean that they are homosexual. Many teens go through temporary episodes of idealization of same sex peers and should not be urged to prematurely label themselves as 'gay.' ...
  • Indeed, they would deny a student's right to receive information on alternatives for unwanted same-sex attractions. Is this what our children deserve?"

  • Nov. 19, 2006 - Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays (PFOX) 

    Mike Dorris, a parent in Lithia, Florida, stated in a Sep. 13, 2005 article titled "Parents: School No Place For Gay Issues," published in the St. Petersburg Times:

    "I am not comfortable with my tax dollars being used to sponsor this club [GSA club at Newsome High School]. Students should discuss sexual-orientation issues with their families, or with psychologists, not with their peers in a school-sanctioned club.

    This tends to be a divisive issue. It's very polarizing to the student body and disruptive to academics. It would be better to have an all-inclusive 'tolerance' club. If we're building this tolerance and love and respect for each other, let's broaden it beyond sex.

    Gay students already have resources in the school's guidance counselors and other support staff. If students are being harassed, it's the administration's responsibility to deal with it."

    Sep. 13, 2005 - Mike Dorris