High school’s Gay Straight Alliance to rally at capital | TahoeDailyTribune.com

High school’s Gay Straight Alliance to rally at capital

Amanda Fehd

Ten students from South Tahoe High School will be in Sacramento today meeting with legislators and rallying for a state Assembly bill aimed to prevent discrimination toward students based on gender or sexual orientation.

Hundreds of students from throughout the state will be in the capital doing the same for Youth Advocacy Day.

What they all have in common is membership in their school’s Gay Straight Alliance club.

South Tahoe High School’s club, called ALLY GSA, and has 65 regular members, according to adviser Bridey Heidel. Their trip to the capital, which is part of Heidel’s political activism workshop, was paid for through fundraisers.

The English teacher was surprised at the response at the club’s first meeting last fall.

“The first meeting had 95 kids, they couldn’t even fit in my classroom,” Heidel said.

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Students are not asked to disclose their sexual orientation, but Heidel suspects they are a mix of gay and straight. Club discussions center around the power of words like “fag” or “gay” which can often be used with negative connotations in a school setting.

“A lot of it is teaching kids to talk about their beliefs,” Heidel said. “We are not trying to shove anything down people’s throat, we are trying to empower kids to stand up for what they believe. We are promoting tolerance, compassion and understanding.”

The GSA and a Christian club at the high school plan to meet together soon to talk about their views and ask each other questions.

Heidel, who is not gay, said forming the club was an effort to be proactive. After teaching in public schools for 10 years, she’s seen depression and suicidal tendencies in teens who are different. She wanted to form a club to address the issues before something happened.

“I think some of the kids are surprised that a straight teacher is advising the club,” she said. “What it does is teaches them that they can be compassionate and involved with a group that may not be directly connected to them.”