A survey conducted by the Surrey Teachers Association (2000) referred to Canadian schools as one of the last bastions of tolerated hatred toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-identified, transsexual, two-spirited and queer (LGBTQ) individuals. This observation points to the need for Canadian schools to consider offering welcoming and safe places within the school for LGBTQ students to meet, socialize, and support one another. Wells (2006) describes gay-straight student alliances (GSA) as student-run and teacher supported school-based groups that come together in confidential spaces where no assumptions are made about participants’ gender or sexual identity. Meetings of the GSA are intended to be open to all students and teachers “who are interested in addressing homophobia, heterosexism and other forms of related discrimination and prejudice” (p.11).
Lee (2002) noted that students who participate in GSAs demonstrate improvement in academic, social, and psychological domains reinforcing the importance of counsellors taking initiative in establishing GSAs within their schools. Wells (2006) stated that there are four main types of GSAs. These include GSAs for counselling and support which is typically counsellor led and offers psychological services, GSAs that provide safe spaces and focus on providing individual support and socialization opportunities, GSAs to raise visibility and awareness with the intent of increasing student safety and bringing to light human rights issues, and GSAs intended to effect educational and social change.
Wells (2006) suggested that when establishing a GSA within a school all procedures and policies that guide other school-based groups, such as seeking consent for participation, should be followed. Next, the GSA will require an advisor, such as a school counsellor or teacher, who can offer support, guidance, and act as a liaison with other school stakeholders including administration and the larger community if necessary. An important part of establishing a GSA is to identify as many supportive staff and resource workers as possible in order to create a wide base of support for students who chose to participate. Logistics, such as having a meeting place and spreading the word about the GSA, will also need to be addressed. Once the group has been operationalized a mission statement, clear guidelines, and a plan for the future will need to be established.
For a more detailed explanation of how to implement a gay-straight alliances in your school check out the following reference web address:
Wells, K. (2006). Gay-straight Student Alliances in Alberta Schools. The Alberta Teacher’s Association.
Lee, C. (2002). The Impact of Belonging to a High School Gay/straight Alliance. High School Journal, 85 (3), 13-27.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA