4 Arguments Against GSAs…And Why They’re Wrong

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. While school administrators sometimes balk at allowing students to start GSAs, federal law guarantees that students at public high schools have the right to do so. Here are the list of the most common objections to GSAs, and how to combat them:

1. “We can’t let our students have a club that’s about sex.”

GSAs are NOT about sex. GSAs are about valuing all people regardless of whether they’re gay, straight, bisexual, transgender, or questioning. Like any other club, GSAs offer students with a common interest a chance to connect and give students a respite from the day-to-day grind of school. They’re about creating a supportive space where students can be themselves without fear and making schools safer for all students by promoting respect for everyone. A GSA meeting is no more about sex than the homecoming dance or any other school-sponsored activity. And several federal courts have ruled in favor of GSAs when schools have used this as an excuse to try to stop them from forming.

2. “We can’t let outsiders come in and start this kind of club in our school.”

Outsiders don’t form GSAs. GSAs are started and led by students. While there are a couple of organizations that have tried to create contact lists or loose coalitions of the over 4,000 GSA clubs, across the country, GSAs aren’t chapters of some larger organization. There is no big, evil national GSA conspiracy out there trying to get its hands on the youth of America. And according to the federal Equal Access Act, students can start any kind of non-curricular club at their schools that they want.

3. “It’s just too controversial.”

Sure, a GSA may be controversial, but it’s illegal for schools to use that as excuse to silence them. If other students, parents, or community members are in an uproar over a GSA, the school’s responsibility is to address those people’s concerns – not shut down a group that is peacefully doing its thing just because some people don’t like it. Besides, when a GSA becomes a point of contention in a community, it really only proves the need for the GSA to exist in the first place. And again, several federal courts have ruled in favor of GSAs when schools have used this as an excuse to stop them from forming.

4. “If we let students start a GSA, then we’d have to let students form any other kind of club they want. What if they wanted to start a KKK club?”

If a club’s purpose is to harass or intimidate other students, then the club is disruptive to the educational process and the school can stop it from forming – so this kind of argument just doesn’t fly. Letting students start a GSA doesn’t mean all those other crazy sorts of clubs some school say they’re so scared of are going to materialize out of thin air. Have a lot of students been approaching your school about starting a KKK club? We doubt it!

Click here to learn more about GSAs, and how to start one in your own school.

Students shouldn’t fear going back to school.

Most of us have all been on the receiving end of bullying at least once, but that doesn’t mean we should let today’s youth continue to be bullied, and the Texas Legislature agrees!

State lawmakers passed a law creating new guidelines concerning bullying which school districts must implement by the time school starts this fall.

The new law requires school boards to adopt policies that:

  • prohibit bullying
  • stop retaliation against any person including a victim, witness, or another person, who in good faith, provides information concerning a bullying incident.

The new law requires schools to:

  • notify a parent or guardian of a student who is bullying or bullied within a reasonable amount of time after the incident
  • provide steps students should take to obtain assistance and intervention in response to bullying
  • make available counseling options for a student who is victim of or a witness to bullying or who engages in bullying
  • establish procedures for reporting bullying, investigating reports of bullying, and determining whether bullying occurred
  • prohibit punishment of a student who, after an investigation is found to have been a victim of bullying, use reasonable self-defense in response to the bullying
  • develop a process for bullying cases involving special education students in accordance with the Disabilities Education Act.

Parents and guardians no longer have to worry about being in the dark if bullying happens or students being punished for self-defense against bullies!

Help us protect youth rights by joining the ACLU of Texas CAN (Community Action Network). We need people like you to raise awareness in your town!

Do Pervasive Homophobic Remarks Like “That’s So Gay” Create a Hostile School Environment?

By Gislaine Williams
Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator

The White House LGBT Conference on Safe Schools and Communities brought together educators, law enforcement, social service providers and community advocates to talk about the strategies being used to address violence and harassment against the LGBT community. Check out our live tweets during the event below.

Learn what you can do in Texas to protect students against discrimination and bullying at www.youthrightstx.org. Follow @youthrightstx on Twitter.

@whitehouse #lgbt conference starting in Arlington with Fairness Fort Worth, UTA president and Guatam Raghavan of whitehouse.

#whlgbt DOJ community relations Services helps build relationships between community and law enforcement

US Attorney Saldaño asks community to report incidents, violence against lgbt community often a hidden crime #whlgbt

#whlgbt Rupert of natl lesbian rights: still many challenges to reporting, transgender sex workers are scared to report violence

Rupert of @nclrights can’t separate racial justice from lgbt rights #whlgbt

#whlgbt conference Safe Schools panel includes @glsen @thejusticedept @usedgov and human rights campaign

#whlgbt Kosciw from @glsen says hostile school environment created by pervasive homophobic remarks like “that’s so gay”

#whlgbt Yudin of @usedgov: 90% LGBT students verbally harassed

#whlgbt Cummings of civil rights division, US DoJ bullying occurs because of overall hostile climate. Need training for all school personell

#whlgbt Cummings of DOJ: Proper to response to harassment not always discipline. Promote education & training.

Looking forward to hearing Joel Burns, Eric Holder at #whlgbt conference.

Watch it Live! #WHLGBT Conference on safe schools and communities at @utarlington http://wh.gov/LIVE

Joel Burns shares personal experience with bullying. Celebrating 19th wedding anniversary with his husband today. #whlgbt

Valerie Jarrett, senior Obama advisor: schools have moral and legal obligation to protect students from harassment #whlgbt

Holder: schools failing to address bullying are ignoring civil rights protections #whlgbt

“We look forward to progress that we can and must achieve,” Holder at #whlgbt conference

Small group discussion: both adults & students need education about bullying & we need holistic approach like PBIS to end bullying #whlgbt

DeptofEd and DOJ recognize role of school-to-prison pipeline. “Discipline is just part of answer-goal is to stop harassment.” #whlgbt

Judy Shepard closes #whlgbt conference http://twitpic.com/8z2rj0

Bullying and free speech: Trampling on the Constitution or addressing the problem

By Kirsten Bokenkamp
Senior Communications Strategist

Did you know that, according to a recent survey, only 32 percent of Texas students who reported incidents of school bullying felt school officials intervened effectively?  Bullying continues to be a problem throughout Texas, and we are happy to see that districts across the state, from Tyler to El Paso are responding: By educating students and parents; creating positive school environments; tracking bullying; and ensuring school administrators take action.

Indeed, under Texas law, school districts are required to prohibit bullying in their student codes of conducts, and to enforce those prohibitions.   Too often, though, students have found that their reports of bullying fall on deaf ears of school officials.  Sometimes school officials actually blame the victims.  This is unacceptable.

All school districts should have a transparent policy that includes procedures for reporting, investigating, and responding to bullying on their campuses.  Furthermore, school officials must be held accountable if they ignore bullying on their campuses.

While reducing bullying is of utmost important, El Paso school officials are correct when they say what happens online after school hours in the students homes is not really in their jurisdiction.  We agree! Just think about it – If school officials are allowed to monitor off-school speech, where does it stop?

The bottom line: To stop bullying we must hold school officials accountable and also create positive and safe school environments.  Building a community of understanding, through education and positive intervention, and setting up policies for swift response to school bullying is the best answer.