For many years, the ACLU and other groups have promoted Gay Straight Alliances (GSA) in public schools as a means of combating bullying and discrimination against LGBTQ youth in public schools. A new study finds that these programs work. The study shows that suicide rates among high schools teenagers are lower in high schools that have a well established gay-straight alliance (GSA) group.
Teenagers in these schools, regardless of the sexual orientation, are 70 percent less likely to have suicidal thoughts or attempts than in schools without a program. Salon reports that the study, recently published in the International Journal of Child, Youth and Family Studies, confirmed that high schools with GSA programs in place for at least three years, have lower rates of homophobic discrimination and bullying and had healthier emotional environments for LGBT students and heterosexual students alike. The study underscored the need for GSA programs, which the ACLU of Illinois and the Safe Schools Alliance have actively promoted. According to Elizabeth Saewyc, a lead author of the study:
We know that LGBTQ students are at higher risk for suicide, in part because they are more often targeted for bullying and discrimination. But heterosexual students can also be the target of homophobic bullying. When policies and supportive programs like the GSAs are in place long enough to change the environment of the school, it’s better for students’ mental health, no matter what their orientation.