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10 Easy Steps to Starting a Gay/Straight Alliance in Your School

Here is a step-by-step plan to starting a Gay/Straight Alliance in your school. This is no a rigid schedule. Some of these steps can happen at the same time. Be flexible, but be sure you plan carefully and thoroughly. As complied by the MA DOE

Step 1: Follow the guidelines.
Establish a Gay/Straight Alliance the same way you would establish any other group or club at your school. In your Student Handbook, there should be a section detailing the procedure for forming a club or group. Follow those guidelines. In some schools, this may mean that you have to get written permission from an administrator. In others, this may mean that you simply have to put up flyers announcing the first meeting and find a faculty member to act as your group advisor. Schools sometimes have rules about where and when you can post flyers, make announcements, or set up information tables. Learn what the policy is at your school.

Step 2: Enlist the Support of Your Administration.
It is important to inform the school administration about your plans to establish a Gay/Straight Alliance. Having an administrator on your side can be very useful. They can help you arrange Days of Awareness, speakers for school assemblies, teacher training, and other events. They can work as liaisons to the community and school committee. Explain why you want to form a Gay/Straight Alliance by doing the following:
Step 3: Find a Faculty Advisor.
Some Gay/Straight Alliances have advisors who are teachers; others have faculty advisors who are guidance counselors, nurses, or librarians. Just like student members of a group, the faculty advisors don't have to be gay to be identified as a part of the group. Many existing groups have straight allies as advisors. How do you pick an advisor? Ask a teacher of staff member whom you think would be receptive. Encourage them to be you advisor by doing the following:
Step 4: Inform Guidance Counselors and School Social Workers about the Group.
Guidance staff may know students that you don't know who would be interested in attending meetings. They may be able to encourage students who are dealing with these issues to attend the group, whether they are questioning their own sexuality, know someone to be gay or lesbian, or are interested in issues affecting gays and lesbians. It can be useful to invite school social workers and guidance counselors to meetings to help facilitate discussions about difficult topics like "talking to your parents about homosexuality," "coming out to friends and family," or "supporting a friend or relative who is gay." The meetings may also bring up issues that students will want to discuss in greater detail with a supportive adult.

Step 5: Pick a Meeting Place.
If possible, find a classroom or spot in your school that is off the beaten track. At first, students may feel a little nervous or uncomfortable about attending a meeting. They may feel worried that others will harass them or make assumptions about their sexual orientation if they join the group. It is important to acknowledge that being gay or being percieved as gay or even being a supportive straight ally can put someone at risk for harassment. Try to find a meeting spot that gives members a sense of security and privacy. Some groups meet in rooms that require anyone who's interested in what's happening inside to walk inot the room. This makes it impossible for students to hang around outside, spying on the meetings. Some groups have met off-campus because they thought it would be safer. However, you should check your school policy about off-campus meetings.

Step 6:Advertise.
Advertising the formation of the first important steps you can take to fight discrimination in your school. For some students, seeing the words Gay or Lesbian on a poster can be the first time they feel that there are other people like them in the world. Some of these students may be questioning their own sexual orientation, or someone close to them may be gay. These students may never even attend a meeting, but seeing the posters may give them a great deal of comfort knowing that there are other people in the school addressing these issues, or that there are other people who feel the same way they do.

The posters can also spark campus-wide discussions. Tradionally there has been a great deal of silence surrounding issues of sexual orientation. Fear, ignorance and misinformation can make discussing homosexuality a frightening experience. Putting up posters can be the springboard to beginning conversations. The posters may give people a reason to bring up their own feelings, questions or thoughts about homosexuality. Of course, not all these feelings will be positive or supportive. However, breaking the silence is often the first step a school takes in educating people and addressing the myths and the questions people have about homosexuality.

Don't be discouraged if the posters are defaced or torn down.

Almost all groups have had this experience. Keep puttiong them back up. The longer you persist, the less often they will be defaced. A student at the Concord-Carlisle alliance SPECTRUM, reported he was "in a lunch room and a guy started taking down one of our posters. We said, 'Don't do that. Leave it there.' And he did." Now some of their posters have lasted for months.

What to include in your posters:
Brookline High School's Gay/Straight Alliance recommencds putting up posers in as many places as possible so if they get torn down, there are still some up. Also, go back and replace the ones that disappear. One Gay/Straight Alliance assumed the monitoring of posters as their group's first activity. You might also want to put some posters in a safe place. Boston Latin used grant money from their Safe Schools minigrant to by a glass case that couldn't be broken into. They put posters and announcements about the group into the case.

Sample Slogans: Ways to Advertise your GSA

Posters are good for a lot of reasons. A student a Weston High School says, "With posters you can attract members, advertise, and make sure that no one is ignoring you. Poster making is also a great activity in your meetings. Just be prepared for them to get torn down for a while, and make sure the administration okays them."

He suggests that posters should "emphasize that the group is for the school, not against it. Show that the group is not just for gay and lesbian students, but for straight kids and homophobic kids as well."

You might want to use some of the following slogans to advertise meetngs of your GSA. Don't forget to include the date, time, and place in the poster!
Step 7: Get Snacks.
Providing food at your meetings is a great idea. Food gives people something to do with their hands. It is a good icebreaker. It gives thems something they can share with each other. It can give people an excuse to come to meetings: "I hungry, so I thought I'd just stop by to grab some chips . . ." Food also makes meetings fun. People can take turns bringing food and share the load around.

Step 8: Hold your meeting.
Now that you have a faculty advisor, food, a meeting spot, and posters advertising you group, your ready to actually hold a meeting. Some groups begin with a discussion about why they feel having such a group is important. You may want to conduct group-building exercises or watch a movie.

Step 9: Establish ground rules.
Some ground rules that other groups have established include:

Step 10: Plan for the future.
You may want to write an outline of goals that you would like to work towards for the future. A group in Worchester made an assessment plan and an action plan. The former included various ways to assess the climate of their school and determine what work needed to be accomplished in the future. The latter was a list of goals for their future, which lead to community-building activities like going to the Gay Pride Parade and to the movies.
This list was created by the Mass. DOE