Rowan-Salisbury School Board Grossly Mischaracterizes Gay-Straight Alliances
New York – The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) is outraged that the Rowan-Salisbury School Board in North Carolina would endanger its students by banning Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) and grossly mischaracterize the nature of GSAs.
In a unanimous vote on Monday, the school board formally banned what it termed “sex-based clubs,” an intentional move to prevent GSAs, which have nothing to do with sex, from meeting on school campuses. The school board ruled in April that a South Rowan High School GSA could not meet on campus for the same reason, despite giving it approval a month earlier.
“It is disheartening and painfully obvious that the Rowan-Salisbury School Board does not have the best intentions of its schools and students at heart,” said Kevin Jennings, a North Carolina native and GLSEN Founder and Executive Director. “The ridiculous claim that GSAs are sex clubs proves that the Rowan-Salisbury School Board is not only disconnected from reality, but also purposefully trying to undermine students’ right to a safe environment in which to learn.”
GSAs provide a safe space for LGBT students and their straight allies to promote respect and tolerance and address anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools. The Federal Equal Access Act protects the right of GSAs to meet on campus, as has been reinforced by judicial precedent in similar cases.
The fact is GSAs help students feel safer in schools, perform better, reduce absenteeism and make students feel like they are more a part of their school. According to the 2005 National School Climate Survey, which documented the experiences of LGBT students in school:
- Students whose school had a GSA were less likely to miss school because they felt unsafe compared to other students. About a third of students whose school has no GSA missed at least one day of school in the past month (32.0%) compared to a quarter of students whose school had a GSA (25.5%).
- Students whose school had a GSA reported higher levels of school belonging than students whose school did not (2.78 vs. 2.67 on a scale of 1 to 4 with 4 being strongest sense of belonging).
Further, a 2001 study by Lake Snell Perry and Associates found that parents overwhelmingly support addressing LGBT student harassment as part of broader efforts to address student safety and teaching respect of tolerance. In fact, 65 percent of parents in rural areas support GSAs in schools
More than 3,000 GSAs have registered with GLSEN, including more than 50 in North Carolina. GLSEN provides a place for students to register their GSAs and receive support and resources.
GLSEN, or the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for ALL students. Established nationally in 1995, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. For more information on GLSEN’s educational resources, public policy and public education work, student organizing programs, research or development initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.