GSA’s return revives anti-bullying campaign

The Gay-Straight Alliance club is attempting to become a large, active and positive force within Marshall, after a year of relative dormancy.

Currently, the club is attempting to garner publicity for pro-tolerance activities such as their sponsoring of classrooms as “Hate-Free Zones.”

An anti-bullying campaign of sorts, these zones are marked by large colorful signs and symbolize areas in which students can work or socialize without the fear of harassment.

A number of teachers have agreed to sponsor these zones by putting posters in their classrooms.

At the time of publication, that number was up to eleven including a sign in the Career Center.

“I see [the poster] all the time from where I stand,” English teacher James Macindoe said. “It just makes me feel more accountable for the things I say and what I hear kids saying.”

Although the project is relatively new, the posters have already been subjected to student criticism. Reportedly, one of the signs was vandalized with hateful language.

“I expect that [the vandalism is] just part of what comes of trying to expose all of Marshall,” club co-president and senior Zach Stahl said. “Not everyone is going to be in favor of this.”

Another obstacle the club has been trying to overcome is the unofficial hiatus they have been on since the 2009-2010 school year.

According to Stahl, regaining student interest has not barred them from attempting to fulfill their goals.

“We have people that have stepped up and decided to join,” Stahl said. “We’re really happy that we finally have a firm number of people that regularly come to our meetings.”

Despite the strong numbers, the club’s members had trouble getting their goals and existence publicized.

“I wasn’t even aware that we had a GSA until the end of my sophomore year,” GSA co-president and junior Kirsten Brothers said. “I was completely bummed when I talked to the teacher sponsoring the GSA and found out how non-publicized the club was.”

Stahl noted that students are unfamiliar with having a GSA as part of their school community.

“A lot of them just don’t know what to expect from the club, and that brings a reluctancy to join,” Stahl said.
According to Brothers, the group publicized its first meeting by setting up a large Facebook event and has been attempting to gain interest through word-of-mouth.

However, there are still students in the building for whom the tactic has not had a far-reaching effect. Junior Jeff Mai, for instance, was not aware of the club’s activities.

“I do support what the GSA does, but I don’t know what ours is doing,” Mai said.

Mai suggested that more official means of advertising, such as posters or school announcements, would be effective in cultivating interest.

The GSA remains optimistic that student backlash will be relatively small. Brothers said she hopes it can promote itself as a “fun, positive club.”

“I’m hoping that my co-presidents and I can make that same type of environment for my peers as well,” Brothers said.