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Gay-Straight Alliance at West Geauga
by Elissa Waldmuller, Lifestyles Editor

All over the country high schools are forming Gay-Straight Alliance clubs. Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA's) are student-organized and student-led clubs in U.S. public high schools that support gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual students in their battles to attain equal rights and treatment. GSA's focus is on combating anti-gay harassment and discrimination and on educating the school community about these issues. As of January 2003, over 1,700 GSA's are active in the U.S.
West Geauga High is soon to be counted among those with an organized chapter. Formed by sophomores Alex Davis, Liz Milburn and Anthony Leonette, West G's GSA will work to educate the student body and to provide a safe haven for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and students questioning their sexuality.

In 1984 a law was signed which stated that all secondary public schools have to allow most non-curricular, student-led clubs to organize at U.S. high schools. If a public high school allows any student group whose purpose is not directly related to the school's curriculum to meet on school grounds during lunch or before or after school, it cannot deny other student groups the same access to the school because of the content of the proposed discussions. This law was originally heavily promoted by conservative Christian groups to allow students to organize religious clubs in public secondary schools; this is ironic, as it is now these same conservative groups that are protesting GSA's wanting to form in schools. The law makes it clear to all secondary public schools that if this right was to be extended to students who wanted to start religious clubs, it must be extended to all students.

The students forming the GSA here have had little or no conflict at all with the board of education, faculty members, or students. In fact most are in support of it and the students. The students in the club said, "[We] plan to ignore and continue meeting even if homophobic actions from students such as ripping down fliers or lewd and ignorant comments in the hallways become a nuisance."

After school meetings will be held on Mondays in Mr. Connell's room. The meetings are open to everyone and are confidential as in, "What's said in the room stays in the room." The GSA club hopes to provide a space where students can come together to share their experiences, discuss anti-gay attitudes they may experience or have experienced in school, or to debate different perspectives on gay-related issues. All students should try to remember that talking openly and honestly with each other is a uniquely effective way of making young people aware of the harms caused by discrimination and violence.

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West Geauga High School | 13401 Chillicothe Road | Chesterland, OH 44026 | 440.729.5950