Gay Straight Alliances

For nearly two years, Williams and other students at his high school tried to start a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA). Event though they met all the school’s requirements for starting a club, the principal put them off, claiming he was worried that approving the GSA would cause kids to get hurt, disrupt school, or spur other students to try to start a “Nazi Club.” William’s persistent efforts, along with some legal assistance from the ACLU, convinced his school to allow the GSA to meet as an official student club.

 

Know Your Rights!

If your public school lets students form groups such as Key Club or the drama club, it must also let you start a GSA. The federal Equal Access Act of 1984 requires your school to grant your request to start a GSA if it allows students to start other non-curricular students groups. It also prevents a school from treating the GSA differently from other clubs. Students in Utah, California, Kentucky, Georgia, Florida, Minnesota and other states have sued their schools for the right to start a GSA – and have won.

Although the Equal Access Act only applies to public schools, Illinois law also prevents discriminatory treatment of GSAs at many private schools. The Illinois Human Rights Act prevents discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity at “non-sectarian” schools, so LGBT students at private schools that are not religious are protected.

 

GSA’s are great for your school and easy to start!

See the growing list of some of these GSAs at www.illinoissafeschools.org. While many schools quickly approve student requests for GSAs, learn about how to start a GSA, and some of the potential obstacles that school sometimes create.