2014 update – the High School’s GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) has been renamed the Queer-Straight Alliance and it is being spearheaded by a Trans youth activist.
Salt Spring’s GSA Contributed by Bill T., 2009
Salt Spring’s progressive and high-performing secondary school, GISS, has had an active GAY-STRAIGHT ALLIANCE since 2004, when it was initiated by three grade 10 students who felt the need for such an organization. Principal Nancy Macdonald, who wholeheartedly supported this initiative, recruited Bill Turner, an active board member of GLOSSI and substitute teacher at GISS, to sponsor the GSA.
Taking seriously its mandate to educate GISS students, as well as the community at large, about gay issues, the GSA has undertaken many activities toward this goal. Following are a few highlights of this work:
Two GSA students, Clare Lannan and Jacob Schweda, were members of a six-member panel (which included Svend Robinson) in a community discussion of gay issues during Salt Spring’s first-ever Gay Pride celebration four years ago
The GSA has done many poster campaigns at GISS, ensuring that every classroom has an anti-homophobia poster on a wall
GSA students have attended numerous conferences, both in Vancouver and Victoria, which have focused on gay issues in schools
GSA students have given workshops in both the middle and elementary schools.
GSA students took part in an emotional GLOSSI-GSA workshop where participants ‘bared their souls’ (see Jacob’s write-up below.) The GSA proudly marched behind their banner in Salt Spring’s first-ever and enormously successful Gay Pride Parade this past September (see picture above).
Perhaps the crowning achievement of the GSA is their involvement in the creation of our school district’s stand-alone anti-homophobia policy in 2005, the first such policy in a rural school district in British Columbia, with only Vancouver and Victoria sharing similar policies. Without such an active GSA this undoubtedly would not have happened. Special recognition goes to Jacob Schweda, founding member and extraordinarily gifted leader of the GSA at the time, who spearheaded this initiative