Students and their adult allies across the state are building power to make each and every school inclusive of 2SLGBTQIA+ people, from inclusive curriculum to welcoming hallway culture to gender-free bathrooms. Read the inspiring story of the Lakeview High School and Daly Middle School Gay-Straight Alliance below. After organizing for months, they convinced their school board to approve them as a club in February and held their first official meeting on February 22nd!
Are you excited to chat more with the Lakeview organizers highlighted below about queer student organizing? They will be at the Rural Caucus and Strategy Session on Saturday, May 20th, and are looking forward to connecting and strategizing with other organizers from around the state! You can register here to join us in the Linn/Benton county area for the Caucus.
Organizing for Queer Inclusion in Lakeview
In Lake County last fall, students spearheaded the effort to start a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) across the middle and high schools. They partnered with art teacher Kamaryn Schneider, a Lakeview High graduate, and began meeting informally. To become an official club though, they had to get approval from the principal, the student government, and then the local school board.
They brought 15 students together to create a proposal that they then shared with the high school principal, who supported their efforts. They were nervous about presenting to the student government, which had repeatedly forgotten to include the GSA’s information in announcements leading up to the meeting. After the meeting student council members started to say “hi” to the advisor whenever they passed in the hallway. The GSA took that as a good sign, and it was. After much anticipation, the GSA learned that the student council had approved their plan.
The final stage was going before the school board. They reached out to the District Office assistant, who added them to the school board agenda for the next month. After getting advice from the superintendent and preparing for a tough discussion about the importance of the club, the board simply voted to approve the GSA along with a bunch of other clubs without any discussion!
While going through the approval process, the GSA took the time to elect a leadership team including a president, vice president, and secretary. They started on their action plan. They decided to partner with another student group called Sources of Strength, which focuses on mental health and preventing youth suicide. Together the groups are working on painting a mural on the side of the middle school that will read “We Belong” in big letters held up by hands of different skin tones. Some will also represent people with physical disabilities and some will be wearing bracelets with rainbow, nonbinary, and trans pride flags to represent 2SLGBTQIA+ folks!
Since many students don’t feel comfortable coming out to their parents, the GSA hosts meetings at lunch to make students feel safer participating. They also have big plans to host a “Dance with who you want to dance with” party around the time of Prom. They hope that starting these kinds of events will help to build a culture of inclusion in Lakeview, where more and more students will feel safe being their authentic selves at school, at home, and in the community.
Not to be limited by the boundaries of the school building, the new GSA is also collaborating with the human dignity group in Lakeview known as ALLIES (All Lives Lived in Equal Safety). ALLIES is preparing to host Lakeview’s first-ever public pride and they invited the GSA to participate however they want. The students decided to make a decorative banner with the Progress Pride and LGTBQ+ Ally flags and the words “Lakeview Pride 2023.” They also got creative about signing their work on the banner and decided to paint their handprints to put on the banner. They hope it can be added to year after year by other queer youth and be displayed at many Lakeview Pride events to come! Here’s a photo of their progress today, starting with the banner:
What are folks in your community doing to make sure everyone feels welcome and included in Oregon’s public schools? Are you passionate about queer inclusion but not sure where to start? Reach out to your friendly ROP organizer or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org! Also, don’t forget to register for the Caucus on Saturday, May 20th in the Linn/Benton county area to strategize with the Lake County organizers and other incredible rural Oregonians!