Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) are student-led clubs for LGBTQ youth and allies in middle and high schools. GSA meetings provide safe spaces for all members and can serve as support groups, social groups, and/or opportunities for educating others on LGBTQ issues. Under the Federal Equal Access Act (1984), public schools are required to allow GSAs to form if they have other extracurricular clubs.
HOW DO I START A GSA IN MY SCHOOL?
- Follow the rules for starting a new student club at your school. Look in your student handbook for instructions, which may include getting permission from an administrator, finding a faculty advisor, and/or writing a mission statement.
- Find an advisor who you think would be supportive and willing to sponsor your group. This could be a teacher, counselor, librarian, or other staff member. This person can help you work with the administration to establish your GSA.
- Document all of the steps you take to create your GSA. Write down dates, times, and names of everyone involved in the process. If you feel like you are going through more steps than other clubs, contact Time Out Youth Center for help.
- Register your group with Time Out Youth Center on the “Register Your GSA” page.
- Pick a meeting place that offers some privacy for club members. This could be a classroom, private room in the library, or another safe place at your school.
- Invite students to join the GSA and attend the first meeting through school announcements, flyers, social media, and word-of-mouth.
- Have your first meeting! Include food and fun activities, and create a mission statement and action plan for the group moving forward.
ELEVEN WAYS TO FIND NEW MEMBERS
- Advertise your group, meetings, and activities! This can be through posters or social media.
- Bring-A-Friend Day. Every member brings one friend to a meeting.
- Invite a guest speaker. Invite someone from a community group (Time Out Youth, PFLAG, ACLU, etc.), a local activist, or someone who does work in a related area.
- School newspaper or announcements. Write an editorial or letter to the editor in your school newspaper, and/or include a notice in the paper or on the daily announcements.
- Sign-in Sheets. Have sign-in sheets and contact people via email/text about upcoming meetings. (Be sure you ask if it is safe to contact members using this information.)
- Club Share. Build coalitions with other student clubs at your school by attending their meetings and partnering on future projects/activities.
- Movies! Screen a movie with an LGBTQ theme.
- Tabling. Set up a table during lunch or at a club fair to share information about your group.
- Provide snacks. Everyone loves free food! It is a great way to get more people to your meetings.
- You’re invited! One of the best ways to get new people in the door is to invite them. Invite people in person, with special invites, via email/text, or through a social media event invite.
- Friendsgiving! What better way to celebrate the holidays than with a friendsgiving? Invite all of your GSA members to a fun thanksgiving-style potluck, and encourage them to invite their friends!
TOY’S TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL GSA
- Create a mission statement as a group
- Start every meeting with introductions, pronouns, and group norms
- Make goals and stick to them
- Plan meetings ahead of time
- Advertise your group, meeting days/times, and activities
- Don’t try to do too many things at once
- Be inclusive and educated on LGBTQ topics
- Give more group members responsibilities
- Group leadership should be diverse and from different grade levels
- Build coalitions with other student groups
Lambda Legal “Know Your Rights” - http://www.lambdalegal.org/know-your-rights/youth
GLSEN JumpStart Guide - http://www.glsen.org/jumpstart
GSA Network Advisor Handbook - https://gsanetwork.org/advisor-handbook
For additional GSA support, please contact Time Out Youth Center’s Assistant Director of School Outreach: firstname.lastname@example.org or 704-344-8335 ext. 604.