June 18, 2013

GLSEN condemns California school's treatment of GSA

The members of Sultana High School's Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) have a bullying problem.

The students can't go to their teachers for help because the bullies at Sultana aren't their classmates; they're the educators and administrators who should be protecting them.

The ACLU Foundation of Southern California (ACLU/SC) sent a formal complaint to the school district today, objecting to the school's systematic discrimination of the GSA and of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and gender non-conforming (GNC) students.

Teachers at the school discriminated against students who are or are perceived to be LGBT and GNC, often using biased remarks in the classroom. In one case, a teacher told a student who had not received a valentine on Valentine's Day that it was "because you’re gay and nobody wants to be with you." Administrators also blocked the posting of GLSEN "Think Before You Speak" flyers which explained why the slurs used by some educators — such as "that's so gay"— have no place in schools.

Students observing GLSEN's Day of Silence also encountered resistance from school staff and teachers. For instance, a teacher forced one participant to sit in a corner by herself for the duration of a class period. On last year's Day of Silence, another teacher remarked to the class that “the gays are the real bullies.” Thorough it all, school administrators have refused to effectively reprimand and educate the offending teachers. Changing this is vital, because fostering supportive teachers gives LGBT students a greater sense of belonging in their school communities, according to GLSEN's 2011 National School Climate Survey.

In addition, school officials treated the GSA differently than other student clubs, censoring its speech and obstructing its activities. They changed the club's announcements to omit any reference to LGBT youth, and routinely blocked movie viewings at the club. GLSEN's 2011 National School Climate Surveyfound that GSAs are a huge asset for LGBT youth in schools, making students feel less unsafe because of their sexual orientation than those without a GSA (54.9% vs. 70.6%).

Teachers and administrators have a duty to create safe and affirming schools for all students, including those who are LGBT or GNC. GLSEN is seriously concerned that the school is blocking proven resources that improve school climate from reaching students. We encourage the district to listen to the ACLU/SC and take actions that help, not hurt, all of its students.

Christoph Sawyer

About Christoph Sawyer

GLSEN National: Communications Intern Summer 2013

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