GSAs have positive impact on school climate, make it safer for all students


   As more and more students are sharing their sexual orientation, the amount of Gay Straight Alliances, or GSAs, have increased in schools. GSAs are groups where anyone of any sexual orientation and background can come together to be in a safe space.  According to, sexual orientation was the second most motivating reason for hate crimes. With some 1.3 million (roughly 8%) of all high school students in America being a part of the LGBTQ+ community, GSAs are starting to become crucial to have in schools.

   According to, GSAs allow LGBTQ+ and straight students alike to “work together to take on issues that affect all students, including harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.” 

    Environments that support students’ identities have been proven to be a lifeline for LGBTQ+ youth. A Vanderbilt University study found that LGBTQ+ students attending high schools with GSAs reported significantly fewer incidences of bullying based on sexual orientation or gender expression and had a greater sense of personal safety compared to students in schools without GSAs.

     “Students need our support now more than ever, whether by making sure that their schools are inclusive and safe or by providing opportunities to engage in their communities and be mentored by supportive adults,” director of the CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health, Kathleen A. Ethier said. 

   Studies show that compared to their straight and gender-conforming classmates, LGBTQ+ students are at an elevated risk of victimization in schools.

   “Our work suggests that GSAs might be a promising solution to this problem,” a research associate at Peabody Research Institute, Kettrey said. 

   Even though the environment for LGBTQ+ students has gotten better, it’s still hostile and there’s room for improvement. 

     “One of the key benefits of a GSA is that it can provide a link between straight and non-straight peers,” director of research for Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN), Emily Greytak said. “We have found that having a GSA in school is directly related to students being more accepting of LGBTQ+ people, less anti-LGBTQ+ language [being heard] and increased student safety — particularly for LGBTQ+ students.” 

   Not only does having a GSA help to provide bonds between all students, it also helps students’ mental health. According to, a recent study showed that students who were more engaged in GSAs were less likely to show signs of depression or anxiety, and with 50% of LGBTQ youth contemplating suicide (the Trevor project) GSAs are needed now more than ever.

   “The reason it is so imperative for schools to be an affirming space is [because] school is the only place that young people have to go,” Amy Cannava, the appointed chair of the National Association of School Psychologists’ LGBTQ+ committee and a school practitioner in Virginia said. “Because they have to be there, it becomes our obligation to act, following what is considered to be empirically validated best practices, which is to be affirming. They legally have a right to be in a place that is safe and supportive and not going to endanger their mental or physical health.”


(Read the next article “LGBTQ+ students want acceptance, recognition at school” in tis News/Feature package.)