Welcome to Teaching Feminism, a series about equality in the classroom. Teaching feminism is about so much more than teaching girls. We need to teach all of our students to respect everyone, no matter what. Teaching feminism talks about just that. Have your own story about these issues? Share it here.
An amazing win for a gay-straight alliance in a Florida high school happened last Tuesday when Marion County Superintendent Jim Yancey was ordered to allow the Vanguard Gay-Straight Alliance to hold meetings on school grounds. The group had applied for status as an official student group in March, but was denied by Vanguard High School’s principal, Milford Lankford. They were told that he was “uncomfortable” having a gay-straight alliance on his campus. When they appealed to the superintendent, they were met with a similar denial. Shortly thereafter, the ACLU of Florida filed a lawsuit saying the school was in violation of the federal Equal Access Act and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
This is a prime example of why GSAs are so necessary in our schools. GSAs provide students with a safe space to talk about issues regarding their sexuality, and issues facing LGBTQ youth today. They also provide students with sponsors and allies in the school should they need someone to confide in or talk to. Furthermore, GSAs are bully-free zones, and are also spaces where students can talk openly about the bullying they encounter throughout the day.
So many LGBTQ youth are bullied in our schools that it is becoming an epidemic. Having a space where students can be themselves is a huge benefit for students no matter their sexuality, and having groups such as a gay-straight alliance on campus shows that the administrators and teachers support such a group, which encourages students to practice tolerance in regards to students’ sexuality.
GSAs also work to empower students to be themselves and not hide who they are. Many teenagers feel the need to conform to what is popular in their schools because they fear backlash if they don’t. The pressure to fit in is also always present in high schools, making it difficult for students who don’t feel as if they fit in. Having a GSA can help LGBTQ students find a sense of pride in who they are, which will help them throughout their lives.
GSAs are not only beneficial for LGBTQ students; they are also beneficial for straight allies. The very name of the group — gay-straight alliance — shows that all students interested in promoting tolerance and equality are accepted.
When we talk about feminism in our schools, we must include young women who are out or in the process of coming out. Much of the bullying that happens in schools is due to students not conforming to gender norms. When young women don’t appear feminine, or when young men don’t appear masculine, it can lead to bullying and taunting. If we sanction groups like GSAs, whose sole purpose is to discuss gender norms, we can bring these issues to light and, hopefully, decrease the amount of bullying we see in our schools, especially bullying regarding students’ sexuality.
Photo Credit: jglsongs