Should Public Schools Allow Gay-Straight Alliances?
The ACLU's Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project wrote the following information on its website, gbge.aclu.org, in a section titled "Start a Gay-Straight Alliance" (accessed July 26, 2010):
"Gay-Straight Alliances, or GSAs, are student-led and student-organized school clubs that aim to create a safe, welcoming, and accepting school environment for all youth, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. GSAs provide a supportive environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students, as well as those who are perceived by others to be LGBT, are questioning their identity, have LGBT friends or family members, or just care about LGBT issues.
GSAs help students work towards making schools safer for all students through providing support, educating others in their school about LGBT issues, and engaging in political activities... GSAs also allow LGBT and straight students to cooperatively address issues that affect all students, including harassment, discrimination, and bias based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression...
While school administrators sometimes balk at allowing students to start GSAs, federal law guarantees that students have the right to do so. There are two types of clubs in public high schools: curricular clubs... and non-curricular clubs... The federal Equal Access Act says that if a public high school allows students to form non-curricular clubs at all, then it must allow students to form any non-curricular club they want, and the school must treat all non-curricular clubs equally."
Arne Duncan, US Secretary of Education, wrote in a June 14, 2011 letter titled "Key Policy Letters from the Education Secretary and Deputy Secretary" posted on the US Department of Education website:
"Gay-straight alliances (GSAs) and similar student-initiated groups addressing LGBT issues can play an important role in promoting safer schools and creating more welcoming learning environments. Nationwide, students are forming these groups in part to combat bullying and harassment of LGBT students and to promote understanding and respect in the school community...
...[T]he Equal Access Act requires public schools to afford equal treatment to all noncurricular student organizations, including GSAs and other groups that focus on issues related to LGBT students, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Officials need not endorse any particular student organization, but federal law requires that they afford all student groups the same opportunities to form, to convene on school grounds, and to have access to the same resources available to other student groups."
The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), a nonprofit educational organization, wrote the following position in its 2007 research brief "Gay-Straight Alliances: Creating Safer Schools for LGBT Students and Their Allies," available on its website, www.glsen.org:
"The presence of a GSA in school may have considerable benefits for LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender] students and their allies. School communities should support the formation of GSAs so that all students can learn and pursue an education in a positive and supportive school climate.
It is also important to note that GSAs are only one part of what helps to make schools safer for LGBT students and their allies. GSAs should be a part of a larger comprehensive safe schools initiative that includes school policies that specifically address sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, trainings for school administrators, faculty and other staff, and support for GSAs and other student clubs that address the issues of LGBT students and their allies. As part of a comprehensive safe schools initiative, GSAs can create positive changes in school climate that endure over time, outlasting changes in the student body, faculty or administration."
The Gay Straight Alliance Network, a California based youth leadership organization, wrote the following information on their website, gsanetwork.org, under a section titled "Why We Are Needed," (accessed July 26, 2010:
"Youth are coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning at younger and younger ages, in middle schools and high schools across the country. Far too many face pervasive harassment and violence at school because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity... While youth who are harassed report weaker connections to school and less support from teachers and other adults, research shows students with GSA [Gay-Straight Alliance] clubs at their school feel safer and more supported.
According to [our] Preventing School Harassment Survey, students in California schools with a GSA club:
experienced less harassment based on sexual orientation
experienced less harassment based on gender non-conformity
were more likely to feel safe at school
were more likely to feel school is safe for LGBT students and gender non-conforming students
reported stronger youth resilience factors, such as connections with supportive adults at school
GSA clubs can successfully decrease harassment and increase school safety for LGBTQ students."
The National School Boards Association (NSBA), and 12 other national organizations such as the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, wrote in a Sep. 29, 2004 legal guide titled "Dealing with Legal Matters Surrounding Students' Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity," published on the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network website, www.glsen.org:
"The Equal Access Act [EAA] originally was proposed to ensure that student religious clubs could meet in public schools, but Congressional debate and subsequent court rulings have made clear that the EAA is meant to apply to a broad array of student groups...
A school cannot refuse to allow a group like a gay-straight alliance (GSA) to meet because other students, teachers, administrators, parents, or community members object to formation of the club. The unpopularity of particular expression has been rejected as a justification for preventing student speech... While schools may properly address disruption by GSA opponents, courts have not allowed districts to use this section of the EAA to prohibit LGBT-related clubs because of negative community sentiment or other potentially disruptive responses."
Linda Harvey, President and Founder of Mission America, made the following comments in a Feb. 5, 2009 speech titled "The Sexual Anarchy of Youth Culture," delivered at Truth Exchange's CWiPPThink-09 conference:
"There are now 4,000 homosexual clubs, often called 'gay-straight alliances,' in US public schools. To put this in perspective, in the early 1990s, there were perhaps ten such clubs in the U.S. The prevalence of these clubs is exploding because of the widespread embrace of the 'gay' agenda throughout the educational establishment, and because of the legal muscle of the ACLU and others. Such pressure groups intimidate school boards and administrators into believing they must allow such clubs on the basis of the federal Equal Access Act and viewpoint fairness. Yet homosexuality is not a 'viewpoint' but a high-risk, immoral lifestyle. It’s kind of like saying anorexia and sword-swallowing are viewpoints...
It’s not surprising to learn, with the increasing promotion and permissiveness, that the incidence of homosexuality appears to be rising, particularly among youth... More and more public schools are affirming grade school age children who desire a cross-gender identity. Schools in Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Florida have all been in the news as they accommodated cross-dressing children. At Chatham Park Elementary School in Haverford Township, Pennsylvania in May 2008, one hundred third graders were given counseling and asked to accept one of their male classmates who would soon begin wearing female clothing...
Diane Gramley, President of the American Family Association of Pennsylvania, wrote in a July 8, 2011 press release titled "News Release: DOE Letter Leaves Out Important Aspect" on www.afaofpa.org:
"A school district may be faced with the tough decision of having to ban all extra-curricular clubs in order to prevent the formation of a disruptive Gay Straight Alliance. This action, in the long run, would be in the best interest of all students. Parents need to understand that a GSA is not about tolerance or safe schools; it is about promoting the homosexual lifestyle by sending the message that ‘gay is okay.' They need to back a school board's attempt to protect all students and the learning process by not allowing a loss of discipline and order on school grounds."
Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), a national non-profit organization that advocates for the "ex-gay community," wrote the following position in its online article "How to Respond to a Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA) Club at Your School," available on the organization's website, www.pfox.org (accessed July 26, 2010):
"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.' Most parents hope to maximize the likelihood of their child growing up to be heterosexual and comfortable in claiming his or her own masculine or feminine nature. Teens themselves have the right to be presented with all information...
[Gay Straight Alliances] lack tolerance and inclusion towards the ex-gay community with respect to school events and presentations on sexual orientation. Their opposition to sharing school access with ex-gay representatives and allowing ex-gay resources to be made available to schools demonstrates their own disregard for diversity... They call for censorship of ex-gay materials and discussion in our nation’s schools [and]... [t]hey recommend books on homosexuality for youth that teach 'do what feels right to you' and that self-restraint on sexual choices is foolish.
[I]nstead of presenting all of the facts on sexual orientation in a fair and balanced manner, GLSEN (Gay and Lesbian Student Education Network), GSA (Gay Straight Alliance), PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Gays & Lesbians), and other anti-ex-gay groups encourage confused and impressionable youth to immediately identify as 'gay' and thus ensure a future homosexual outcome that may be unnecessary. Indeed, they would deny a student's right to receive information on alternatives for unwanted same-sex attractions. Is this what our children deserve?"
Citizens for Community Values, a conservative nonprofit organization, wrote the following position in its article "The Legal Liability Associated with Homosexuality Education in Public Schools," available on its website, www.ccv.org (accessed July 26, 2010):
"Since the early 1990s, homosexual activist organizations have been working for greater access to public schools with the stated purpose of making them a 'safer' place for young people who have become involved in homosexual behavior... What is becoming increasingly clear, however, is that... the 'safe school' message of these organizations is nothing more than a deceptive ploy designed to preach safety while actually encouraging sexual behaviors that are quite unsafe...
Exposure to and experimentation with homosexual behavior carries serious risks... There is concern that by allowing access by homosexual activist organizations, and by establishing policies that have the effect of normalizing homosexual behavior, schools may have become responsible for physical and emotional harm to the students entrusted to their care... [B]ecause homosexual behavior has been proven to contribute to many harmful consequences for those who engage in it, school officials should be aware that it is possible that a legal liability exists for the tort of negligence if it is proven that homosexual activist organizations were granted access to students under the school’s responsibility and that students subsequently suffered physical or mental harm...
When a child is encouraged to accept homosexuality as normal, healthy and natural, any such encouragement to engage in or experiment with homosexual behavior at a school-sanctioned club [gay-straight alliance] or event, has the potential for legal liability, should the child experience injury to his or her physical health through such experimentation."