4.1 Suggestions for starting a GSA
So you are a middle or high school student interested in starting a GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance), QSA (Queer-Straight Alliance), or similar group? Excellent! Here are some suggested steps:
- Find a faculty adviser. Most schools require clubs to have a faculty adviser. This usually means this person will be present at your meetings and activities, and can help organize events, too. Find a teacher or staff member whom you know is welcoming and affirming and ask if they’re interested. Keep in mind that teachers are extremely busy people, and if they say no it does not mean that they are not an LGBTQ ally. If your first choice says no, they may have suggestions of other staff members you can ask. With your faculty adviser, you should decide when and where your meetings will be held.
- Review your school and/or district’s policies on clubs. Do your homework. Make sure you follow the guidelines and regulations that are necessary. Is there paperwork you need to fill out? Is there a certain number of interested students you need to sign a petition to start a club? Can someone in any class (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior) start a club, or are there restrictions? Is there a certain time of year new clubs can be formed? To have the best outcome, make sure all your ducks are in a row.
- Review your school and/or district’s policies on anti-discrimination. While the Equal Access Act protects your rights to start a GSA, some administrations may try to resist. Check what your district says about anti-discrimination, and bring this information when you meet with your principal.
- Meet with your principal. We recommend that you do not meet with your principal alone, and that preferably you bring your faculty adviser. Unsupportive principals may say things to try to dissuade you from forming the group and will be less likely to say these things if you have company. If your principal is supportive, it is still a good idea to bring someone along to the meeting so that you can both take notes. (For how to deal with an unsupportive administration, check here)
- Decide on your meeting times and location. You should discuss this with your faculty adviser and interested group members. If your adviser’s classroom is not available, check if you can meet in the library or cafeteria.
- Advertise. Check your school’s guidelines for putting up fliers and posters, and make sure your school knows about your first meeting. Use your social media to advertise too, but take caution to protect everyone’s privacy.
- Consider the following items at or before your first meeting:
- Respect everyone’s privacy. Coming out is a constant journey, and not everyone may want the whole school to know they are a member of the group. Some people may want to check it out because they are questioning their identity, some may have been out since birth, and some may be supportive allies who also fear bullying. All of those are okay, and all should be respected.
- Discussion norms. Do you want to have topics for each meeting? Should it be free form? A combination of both? Should people raise hands, speak when moved, use a talking stick? Should people who are quieter be encouraged to share their thoughts?
- Rules. Are there any regulations for membership? Do you need to have certain rules to satisfy school guidelines?
- Leadership. Will you vote on a president and vice president? How often will voting occur, and what are the rules for being a group leader? If you have a large group, will you have sub-committees, such as community service or entertainment?
- As a group, decide on your activities. Do you want to focus on awareness of LGBT identities at school? Or participating in a local pride parade? Or getting together to watch queer movies? Or asking guest speakers to come? (Safe Schools NC is happy to come talk to NC schools, whether in person or via Skype.)These activities will likely change throughout the school year, so open discussion of them is recommended.
- Enjoy your hard work! Starting a club is work, but it’s about fun too. While it will look good on your college applications, the point is to have a good time with like-minded people. visit our Suggestions for existing GSAs page for more ideas.