Sunday, July 29, 2007

Gay, Lesbian, And Straight Education Network (GLSEN) Reports 3,577 Gay-Straight Alliance Clubs Nationwide In 2007 - Alaska Ranks 36th With 16


The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) reports that as of the end of the 2006-07 school year, there are now 3,577 Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) clubs on primary education campuses nationwide. However, this merely represents the number which have registered with GLSEN; there could be more. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and even Puerto Rico are represented. Graphic courtesy of Western Voices World News.

Since the first GSA was organized in 1988, growth, initially slow, began to pick up steam by the turn of the 21st century, While it took 13 years to get the first 1,000 clubs registered by November 2001, only two and a half years elapsed until the 2,000 barrier was broken in March 2004. Just 15 months later, the 3,000 mark was breached in June 2005. However, growth has slowed since that time, possibly because of a fresh wave of legislation seeking to restrict or prohibit such clubs. Courts have held that the Federal Equal Access Act protects the right of students to form such clubs. As a result, the only real "court-proof" dodge has been to ban all student clubs, which understandably frustrates many students interested in less-controversial activities. The most promising new restrictive legislation seeks to give school boards the power to ban GSAs based on the fact that they might encourage student sexual activity and schools have the power to prevent sexual abuse and predation.

Proponents of Gay-Straight clubs maintain that their presence helps create a climate of greater tolerance and understanding, enabling lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students feel safer at school, skip school less and have a greater sense of belonging when their school has a GSA, according to GLSEN’s 2005 National School Climate Survey of 1,732 LGBT students.

Opponents, particularly those with a strong conservative religious influence, believe GSAs create four prospective problems for students and schools:

1). They place schools in the position of implicitly advocating sexual activity amongst students.

2). They place schools in the position of implicitly recognizing homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle.

3). They place schools in the position of implicitly recognizing homosexuality as equal in societal value to heterosexuality.

4). Gay students who are told that homosexuality is no different than heterosexuality could be more vulnerable to adult homosexual predators.

On their discussion forum, PFOX presents a good post on why they think Gay-Straight clubs do NOT necessarily result in safer schools. Without close supervision and parental interaction, you could end up with the spectre of an elementary school class marching in a Gay Pride parade, as what happened in San Diego last year.

In addition, proponents of Gay-Straight clubs fail to understand that sexual maturity in teenagers is not necessarily concomitant with emotional maturity. A student who feels a same-gender attraction may not actually be "gay", but might merely be going through a phase until his emotions become properly seated. To encourage such students to embrace homosexuality might cut them off from starting a conventional family and siring kids.

GLSEN bills itself as 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. GLSEN is not unfriendly towards the idea of gays voluntarily becoming straight. Another major advocacy group for gay youth is Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). While PFLAG has not officially reacted to this story and does not register GSAs, they are highly supportive of the concept, publishing guidelines on how to work with LGBT youth, while stressing the need to be sensitive to parental consent laws. However, in contrast to GLSEN, PFLAG is absolutely opposed to "reparative therapy".

Directly countering these two groups is a group I briefly mentioned earlier, Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX). PFOX provides support for families and public awareness for the greater community regarding the decision to leave homosexuality. They inform us that each year thousands of men, women and teens make the personal decision to leave homosexuality. Unfortunately, many gays and sympathizers look upon such people as "orientation traitors", and deal with them abusively. Founded in 1998, PFOX provides outreach, education and support to gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered men, women and teens who are struggling with same sex attractions and want to change. Without PFOX, former homosexuals, lesbians, bi-sexuals and transgendered persons would have no organized lobby to advocate on their behalf in such a hostile environment, leaving the field primarily to those handful of churches who still hold to the scriptural view of homosexuality.

Here's the list of states and clubs:

STATE, # of CLUBS
California 517
New York 315
Massachusetts 242
Pennsylvania 145
Illinois 139
New Jersey 136
Michigan 134
Florida 133
Washington 117
Connecticut 116
Ohio 114
Wisconsin 114
Virginia 103
Maryland 102
Texas 101
Colorado 90
Oregon 82
Minnesota 79
Arizona 76
North Carolina 76
Georgia 60
Missouri 60
Indiana 51
Iowa 47
New Hampshire 39
Kansas 35
Maine 32
Rhode Island 28
Kentucky 25
Nebraska 24
Vermont 24
New Mexico 22
Nevada 21
Oklahoma 20
Utah 17
Alaska 16
Tennessee 16
Hawaii 13
Louisiana 12
South Carolina 12
Delaware 10
Alabama 9
Arkansas 9
Idaho 7
Montana 7
Wyoming 7
District of Columbia 6
South Dakota 6
West Virginia 5
Mississippi 3
North Dakota 2
Puerto Rico 1

However, the overall Alaska numbers do not square with the individual breakdown by school also posted by GLSEN. Only 13 show up, as follows (highlighted schools refer to the club on their websites):

CHUGIAK HIGH SCHOOL, GAY-STRAIGHT ALLIANCE
SOUTH ANCHORAGE HIGH SCHOOL, GAY-STRAIGHT ALLIANCE
STELLER SECONDARY SCHOOL, GAY-STRAIGHT ALLIANCE
WEST HIGH SCHOOL, GAY-STRAIGHT ALLIANCE
WEST VALLEY HIGH SCHOOL, GAY-STRAIGHT ALLIANCE
DIMOND HIGH SCHOOL, GAY-STRAIGHT ALLIANCE
EAST HIGH SCHOOL, GAY-STRAIGHT ALLIANCE
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL, GAY-STRAIGHT ALLIANCE
KODIAK HIGH SCHOOL, GLSEN
LATHROP HIGH SCHOOL, GAY-STRAIGHT ALLIANCE
MONROE CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOL, PCAM
POLARIS K-12 SCHOOL, IMRU2
SERVICE HIGH SCHOOL, GAY-STRAIGHT ALLIANCE

Perhaps GLSEN's individual breakdown is dated. Schools not highlighted may have chosen to discontinue their clubs. Additional research on my part revealed one more Alaska high school referring to a GSA on their website:

BARTLETT HIGH SCHOOL, GAY-STRAIGHT ALLIANCE

Eagle River High School has had GSA activity in the past, also. So that brings the list up to 15, assuming all the rest are current.

However, according to a story posted July 27th, 2007 in the Deseret Morning News, it's easy for the registry to become outdated. According to Rachel McNeil, director of youth programs for the Utah Pride Center, "Each year, some fall away and some start up ... depending on the support they receive from their schools. It's hard to keep up on (their status)".

And in Utah, the registry is clearly outdated. At least six — Bountiful, Skyline, Brighton, Hillcrest, Layton, Northridge — on the list were defunct last school year, and some for several years, school leaders said. But Equality Utah and the Utah Pride Center say that last school year, they were working with groups at 15 schools, several of which are not on network's registry: Logan, Park City, East, West, Copper Hills, West Jordan, Hunter, Sky View, Highland, Granite, Bingham, Jordan and Cottonwood high schools, and Oakley School and Rowland Hall-St. Mark's School. This illustrates the volatility of the situation.

Schools can protect "sexually-unsure" students against gratuitous violence without establishing these clubs on campus. Just write and enforce proper anti-bullying policies which do NOT put the perpretrator and the victim on the same moral level.

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