U. S. Department of Education issues warning about banning gay-straight clubs at school
In 1984, Congress passed the Equal Access Act to prevent discrimination against religious groups in public schools. This federal law requires schools to treat all student-initiated groups equally. In other words, one club or organization is not to be favored or rejected over others or denied access to school resources. It’s an all or none approach to student clubs. A school may have a “no clubs” policy, but if they allow even one, others must be allowed access.
Due to the increase in traditional bullying and cyberbullying in schools, LGBT students are forming gay-straight alliances, in part, to combat bullying and harassment. In June, 2011, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wrote a letter to the nation’s public schools. He said, in part, ”By encouraging dialogue and providing supportive services, these groups can help make schools safe and affirming environments for everyone.”
Secretary Duncan further stated that “We intend for these guidelines to provide schools with the information and resources they need to help ensure that all students including LGBT and gender-nonconforming students, have a safe place to learn, meet, share experiences and discuss matters important to them.”
Statistics indicate that students at schools with these clubs report less bullying and feel safer on-campus. Approximately 4000 gay-straight alliances are registered with GLSEN in New York.
Although the law will be thirty years old in 2014, the battle continues against the formation of LGBT clubs. It still takes a school in compliance with the law.
On the ACLU’s website is a section that provides students with advice about forming gay-straight alliances. See here for details.