LGBTQ youth are four times more likely than their peers to attempt suicide. That’s why the United Way of Delaware wants all Delaware schools to do more to support them.
Gay-Straight Alliances, often called GSAs, are student-run clubs for LGBTQ students and their peers.
Bob Martz with the United Way of Delaware’s PRIDE Council says all First State middle schools and high schools should have them.
“When we began this process in 2012, there were 14 Gay-Straight Alliances," Martz said.
Now, at least 37 Delaware schools have the clubs.
Martz says creation of the Gay-Straight Alliance clubs starts with buy-in from principals and administration, and with staff willing to serve as faculty advisors. He says that adult buy-in is important, given that 29% of gay youth say they don’t have an adult to talk to about personal problems.
“What we’re encouraging teachers and administrators: is you need to provide these kids support if they don’t feel they have it at the time, they can’t talk to their pastor, their imam or their rabbi, at least there’s somebody here they can reach out to for help," Martz said.
He says the PRIDE Council then conducts a training on LGBTQ issues for the school’s entire staff.
Shawn Snyder is principal of Milford High School, and says they’ve had a GSA for over a decade.
“It’s hard to remember even a time where we didn’t have a really strong gay straight alliance here," Synder said. "I know we’ve had really good faculty members who’ve kind of championed this as something they really thought was important for kids and we’ve got a really caring, understanding staff so it kind of took off almost immediately.”
He says about 40-50 students participate in the club regularly, made up of both students on the LGBTQ spectrum and their allies.
Snyder says the club members focus on raising awareness about issues affecting their community, and adds they’re currently raising money to purchase books with LGBTQ themes for the school library.