Area Gay-Straight Alliances Give Students a Voice, Enhance School Climate, Youth Leaders Say

By Archer, Kim | Tulsa World (Tulsa, OK), September 14, 2014 | Go to article overview

Area Gay-Straight Alliances Give Students a Voice, Enhance School Climate, Youth Leaders Say


Archer, Kim, Tulsa World (Tulsa, OK)


The growing number of gay-straight alliances at area middle and high schools is creating a better school environment for all students, local youth leaders say.

"Even just the existence of a GSA leads to safer schools," said Victoria Wiener, GSA coordinator at Youth Services of Tulsa.

The student-led, student-driven clubs are known to prevent bullying and suicide while promoting inclusion and helping students develop leadership skills, said Jim Walker, executive director of Youth Services of Tulsa.

"They've been around at least 25 years all over the country, and one of the things that schools have found is that students become more tolerant of people who are different. It spreads from just the issue of whether they're gay, lesbian, transgender to any issue that makes someone different," he said.

According to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, gay- straight alliances have been proven to reduce bullying and harassment among students. They also reduce school absences due to fear by as much as half.

"It's been a haven for kids," Walker said. "Nationwide -- and Tulsa is pretty close to it -- 30 to 40 percent of the kids who are homeless are gay, lesbian or transgender kids. Those kids are about four times more likely to attempt suicide and also to be abused."

Years ago, Youth Services of Tulsa decided to support the development of GSAs in area schools after a community survey revealed there were no identifiable services for gay, lesbian and transgender teens.

"The strength of the gay-straight alliances is that it is both gay and straight kids coming together to say, 'We can still be friends; we can still be connected, even if we are different on our sexual orientation. …

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