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Gay-Straight Alliances: Study Says Clubs Make Students Less Depressed, More Successful

First Posted: 11/15/2011 12:20 pm Updated: 11/15/2011 12:34 pm

Gay-straight alliance (GSA) clubs are increasingly more common in high schools across the country, offering students of all sexual orientations a place to talk, offer support, and feel accepted by their peers. According to a new study from the Family Acceptance Project, having access to a gay-straight alliance (GSA) club at school provides a number of important benefits to middle and high school students -- even if they don't participate. LGBT teens were found to benefit from the presence of a GSA at their school, whether or not they were involved.

The study, though preliminary, found that students whose schools had a GSA were less likely to experience depression and more likely to have higher self-esteem. Additionally, students at a school with a GSA were found to be less likely to drop out and more likely to succeed in higher education.

GSA clubs can have a significant impact on students' lives -- both in the classroom and outside of school -- but bullying against LGBT students remains a problem in many schools that the GSA is not equipped to handle alone. GSAs can only do so much: at schools with higher levels of victimization of LGBT students, the harassment, bullying, and violence that these students experienced cancelled out many of the GSAs' positive effects.

Although thousands of high schools across the country now have active, thriving GSA clubs, many GSAs have recently encountered opposition -- last month in Tennessee, a high school principal reportedly assaulted and harassed a student wearing a t-shirt supporting efforts to start a GSA at his school. The shirt read, "GSA: We've Got Your Back." Allegedly, the principal warned students that starting the club would result in their suspension. And last month in Texas, the formation of a GSA at Keller High School resulted in opposing students launching a Facebook page called, “Abolish the GSA, Gay-Straight Alliance, at Keller High School.”

What do you think: how important is the existence of GSAs in public high schools to the broader student population? How should schools and educators better approach the problem of LGBT bullying? Sound off in the comments below.

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Filed by Carolyn Gregoire  |