[ About GSAs ] | [ Sample Mission Statement ] | [ Excerpts from Equal Access Act ]

About Gay-Straight Alliances
posted by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Educators Network



A Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) is a school-based, student-led, non-curricular club organized to end anti-gay bias and homophobia in schools and create positive change by making schools welcoming, supportive and safe places for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. GSAs help eliminate anti-gay bias, discrimination, harassment and violence by educating school communities about homophobia and the lives of youth, and supporting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) students and their heterosexual allies.


In the winter of 1989, a sophomore student named Meredith visited history teacher Kevin Jennings', future founder and Executive Director of GLSEN, office at Concord Academy. The daughter of a lesbian, Meredith was troubled by the frequent anti-gay commentary she heard around the school, and wanted to start a student group to do something about it. She asked Kevin to be its faculty advisor. Since Kevin, identifying as gay, and Meredith, straight, wanted to create a welcoming group open to any interested community member - regardless of sexual orientation - they coined a name right there: the Gay-Straight Alliance.

Since 1989, the idea of the Gay-Straight Alliance has sprung in towns across America, largely thanks to the active support of GLSEN, the only national organization whose sole mission is to combat anti-gay bias in K-12 schools. Through the work of over 90 GLSEN Chapters, GSAs have been provided with resources and support in aiding their work. Today over 700 schools in 46 states have Gay-Straight Alliances, a number which has doubled in slightly more than a year. To better support these students, GLSEN created its Student Pride USA program in 1997 and hired its first full-time staff person devoted to the program in 1999. Offering print and web-based resources, list-serves that facilitate communication with and among student leaders and their faculty advisors, on-site training, and individual technical assistance, Student Pride has emerged as a critical resource for students seeking to organize GSA's on their campuses.


Student Pride


GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) envisions a future in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Student Pride USA works to realize this vision by supporting the creation and maintenance of student-led Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA) and uniting youth across the nation.


Student Pride began as Pride USA in the summer of 1996. Miguel Ayala, an openly gay high school senior, in Chicago, launched the organization with the support of the Student Alliance organization. Soon thereafter Miguel met Toni Armstrong Jr., an openly lesbian teacher and GLSEN member. They worked together to build Student Pride through promoting public awareness of the LGBTQ student movement and collecting data on school-based groups. The continuing purpose of Student Pride USA is to network all LGBTQ clubs, support groups, and Gay-Straight Alliances that are based in K-12 schools. Special emphasis is on providing support, advice, networking opportunities, training, resources, legal support, and encouragement to all students who want to start groups in their schools, and the staff working to support them.

In the spring of 1997 the group become known as Student Pride USA. As Miguel was about to move on to college (he found managing Student Pride USA would become more difficult) GLSEN took on Student Prided USA as a program. By 1999 the Student Pride USA program had grown tremendously. New funding provided for a full-time staff position who works with thousands of youth and faculty advisors from across the country who are leading GSAs.

Since its conception, Student Pride has grown into a network of over 1,000 GSAs, youth/student groups, and student organizers from around the nation. Through Student Pride USA's yearly youth-mag, Yearbook, the National GSA Directory, multiple GSA Email List-serves and a wide range of free resources (including over 1000 books and videos) Student Pride USA has delivered tremendous results in supporting the work of its members. The program continues to grow daily as more groups and students join the network in order to help themselves and each other make their communities safer, more supportive places!

Student Pride Web Link Policy

Sample Mission Statement:

The Gay-Straight Alliance is a student-led club that connects school-based Gay-Straight Alliances to each other and to community resources. The mission of the Gay-Straight Alliance is to:

  1. Promote tolerance and acceptance of diverse groups of people including persons who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
  2. Create a safe environment in school for students to support each other and learn about homophobia and other oppressions.
  3. Educate the school community about homophobia, gender identity, and sexual orientation issues.
  4. Develop strategies to reduce discrimination, harassment, and violence in schools.

Visit http://www.lambdalegal.org for the complete language of the Act
Posted by John Spear

The Equal Access Act

(20 U.S.C. §§ 4071-74)
Sec. 4071. (a) It shall be unlawful for any public secondary school which receives Federal financial assistance and which has a limited open forum to deny equal access or a fair opportunity to, or discriminate against, any students who wish to conduct a meeting within that limited open forum on the basis of the religious, political, philosophical, or other content of the speech at such meetings.

(b) A public secondary school has a limited open forum whenever such school grants an offering to or opportunity for one or more noncurriculum related student groups to meet on school premises during noninstructional time.

(c) School shall be deemed to offer a fair opportunity to students who wish to conduct a meeting within its limited open forum if such school uniformly provides that-
the meeting is voluntary and student-initiated;
there is no sponsorship of the meeting by the school, the government, or its agents or employees; employees or agents of the school or government are present at religious meetings only in a nonparticipatory capacity;
the meeting does not materially and substantially interfere with the orderly conduct of educational activities within the school;
and nonschool persons may not direct, conduct, control, or regularly attend activities of student groups.

(d) Nothing in this subchapter shall be construed to authorize the United States or any state or political subdivision thereof-
to influence the form or content of any prayer or other religious activity;
to require any person to participate in prayer or other religious activity;
to expend public funds beyond the incidental cost of providing the space for student-initiated meetings;
to compel any school agent or employee to attend a school meeting if the content of the speech at the meeting is contrary to the beliefs of the agent or employee;
to sanction meetings that are otherwise unlawful;
to limit the rights of groups of students which are not of a specified numerical size;
or to abridge the constitutional rights of any person.

(e) Not withstanding the availability of any other remedy under the Constitution or the laws of the United States, nothing in this subchapter shall be construed to authorize the United States to deny or withhold Federal financial assistance to any school.

(f) Nothing in this subchapter shall be construed to limit the authority of the school, its agents or employees, to maintain order and discipline on school premises, to protect the well-being of students and faculty, and to assure that attendance of students at meetings is voluntary.

Sec. 4072. As used in this subchapter-

The term "secondary school" means a public school which provides secondary education as determined by State law. The term "sponsorship" includes the act of promoting, leading, or participating in a meeting. The assignment of a teacher, administrator, or other school employee to a meeting for custodial purposes does not constitute sponsorship of the meeting.
The term "meeting" includes those activities of student groups which are permitted under a school's limited open forum and are not directly related to the school curriculum. The term "noninstructional time" means time set aside by the school before actual classroom instruction begins or after actual classroom instruction ends.

Sec. 4073. If any provision of this subchapter or the application thereof to any person or circumstances is judicially determined to be invalid, the provisions of the remainder of the subchapter and the application to other persons or circumstances shall not be affected thereby.

Sec. 4074. The provisions of this subchapter shall supersede all other provisions of Federal law that are inconsistent with the provisions of this subchapter.

John Spear
National Field Director
Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network
(212) 727-0135 x114 | (212) 727-0254 - Fax 121 West 27th St., Suite 804
New York, NY 10001