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U.S. Dept of Education: GSA’s Must Be Treated Equally

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The Obama administration says it supports gay-straight alliances on campuses, and says schools nationwide MUST allow for the student groups to form.

In a letter and accompanying guidance issued Tuesday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan says federal law REQUIRES districts to “afford ALL student groups the same opportunities to form, to convene on school grounds, and to have access to the same resources available to other student groups.”

Duncan is referring to the 1984 Equal Access Act, which guarantees students’ rights to start any non-curricular club of their choice like a GSA. School officials, though, are NOT required to endorse such an organization.

But that hasn’t stopped some schools from denying LGBT students and their allies the right to form a club that Duncan says “can help make schools safe and affirming environments for everyone.” Citing research from the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network, Duncan’s letter points out that the presence of a GSA reduces instances of bullying and harassment.

GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard says it’s “incredibly gratifying” to see her group’s data being used to make “tremendous changes at the official level.”

BYARD: That’s why we do this work–we want to get the evidence base to advocate for programs that make a difference for LGBT youth, and I’m really pleased to say that it’s working.

Byard also says that she hopes Tuesday’s guidance will put the question of whether to allow the formation of GSA’s to rest—particularly now that the Department of Education has issued its official recommendations.


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