Frequently Asked Questions
What rights do teachers/students have to form a GSA?
"Under the federal Equal Access Act (EAA) of 1984, any school that permits non-curriculum related student groups must provide equal access to all student groups (source)." This means that GSAs must be allowed the same privileges that other student groups in the school are given, including the right to a meeting space, an advisor, fundraising opportunities, or any of the other privileges that other school clubs enjoy.
Can a school stop a GSA from forming because of a “lack of interest” or not enough members signed up?
A school cannot impose any requirements on a GSA that is not formally outlined and applies to every other non-curricular school club. They also cannot declare a “lack of interest” without first initiating a sign-up process.
Can GLSEN Washington help me persuade a school administration or school board to allow a GSA to form?
We are happy to meet with you to discuss best practices for working with your school administration/board to guarantee that your rights are met, although we cannot provide legal advice. If this would be useful for you, feel free to message us via the “Contact Us” form on our website, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
What rights do students have in regards to discriminatory bullying/harassment?
OSPI outlines the legal protections that Washington students have against bullying and harassment, including protected characteristics. While policies and procedures may vary by school and district, all schools should be adhering to these guidelines.
Your school district should include their HIB (Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying) policy and their non-discrimination policies in the student handbook. They should also be available on the district website. If you have trouble accessing these policies, let us know.
What should you do when teachers will not intervene in bullying/harassment?
A good first step is to consider if the educator might be receptive to feedback; some educators might be sympathetic to your cause but lack the knowledge of how to effectively intervene. If they seem potentially receptive, meet with them to discuss your concerns. If not, consider if there are any educators or staff members in your school building who have signaled support in the past, whether or not they are directly involved in the situation. Then, you could meet with the administration as a coalition and propose possible solutions on a school-wide scale, such as hosting a visit from GLSEN to teach professional development sessions.
Each school district has an HIB coordinator that you can contact if you feel your school is not addressing your concerns. Check here for the contact information for your district’s HIB Compliance Officer.
If you have concerns about sexual harassment or discrimination based on sex, disability status, sexual orienation, gender identity or other characteristics, check here for your district’s Title IX, 504 and Civil Rights Compliance Officers.
You can also contact Equity and Civil Rights Office in OSPI at: email@example.com or 360-725-6162
Trans and Gender Non-Conforming Students
What rights do trans and gender non-conforming students have in school?
OSPI outlines the rights that trans and gender non-conforming students have in Washington public schools here. These rights include protection against discrimination, the right to be referred to with one’s preferred name, pronouns and gender designation, and the right to use the “sex-segregated facility” that corresponds with a student’s gender identity.
Do schools have to have a gender-neutral bathroom?
Students are required to be given access to a gender-neutral restroom, such as a staff restroom or health office restroom, if one is available, upon the student’s request. However, schools cannot request that a trans or gender non-conforming student use an alternative restroom.
Can schools prevent trans students from using the bathroom consistent with their gender identity?
No; Washington public schools are legally required to let students use the bathroom consistent with their gender identity.
How should you notify teachers or school administration about a name change?
If you have a guidance counselor, that is a great first point of contact in your school administration. If not, consider reaching out to a trusted teacher or staff member for their assistance in this process. You are welcome to use this email template if useful.
Do you have to legally change your name to get it changed in school systems?
According to OSPI, non-official records, including attendance lists, should display a student’s preferred name, even if it is not their legal name.