Know Your Rights

How Family Members Can Help Gay-Straight Alliances

A gay-straight alliance, or GSA, is a club for LGBTQ youth and straight allies. There are more than 4,000 GSAs in schools nationwide.

GSAs can provide support, foster community, cultivate leadership skills and reduce discrimination.

If you’re a parent or guardian and there is no GSA at your child’s school, try bringing up the idea of a GSA with another sympathetic parent, teacher or guidance counselor. See Gay-Straight Alliances or the Resources section for materials and organizations that may help you convince administrators, school board members, teachers, parents and young people that GSAs are important and that LGBTQ students deserve to be treated with dignity, equality and respect. For an up-to-date list of GSAs across the country, visit the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network at www.glsen.org. The Gay-Straight Alliance Network offers a national directory of statewide organizations that work with GSAs and other resources for starting a GSA.

When trying to help students organize a GSA, bear in mind that individuals and organizations that are not affiliated with the school generally cannot distribute information on campus. However, students can distribute materials as long as the distribution does not “materially and substantially” disrupt the school environment or infringe upon the rights of others.

Contact Lambda Legal (866-542-8336 or visit www.lambdalegal.org/help) if you or your children or students:

  • Have questions about their legal rights to form a GSA, or otherwise have questions about their rights as a LGBTQ person
  • Encounter any resistance to forming a GSA
  • Experience frustration because the administration is not responding to their request to start a GSA
  • Are told that the school will not provide access to the school website, public address system, bulletin boards or poster space when other noncurricular clubs have access
  • Are told that the school forbids the use of the school name in association with the GSA, or the use of words or expressions like “gay” or “LGBTQ” in their GSA’s name.
  • Discover that the school bans or blocks websites with LGBTQ information
  • Are told their faculty advisor may not participate in their meetings, even though faculty advisors participate in other clubs
  • Are told that they cannot have outside speakers
  • Have their GSA meetings monitored by administrators or staff'
  • Are told they need parental permission to participate