Thursday, December 11, 2008

Iowa GSA Day Set for Jan 28th

Get Ready for the Third Annual Iowa GSA Day!!

To help everyone prepare for the day we've provided some answers to Frequently Asked Questions!

FAQ: About Iowa Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) Day

What is Iowa GSA Day?
Now in its third year, the goals of Iowa GSA Day are to:

· Honor GSAs around that state that work to end violence, homophobia and transphobia in Iowa schools and colleges;

· Honor students, teachers and community members that have shown dedication for keeping all students safe, and insuring a quality education for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity; and,

· Raise awareness of the need for GSAs in schools and colleges and how they are a proven, effective tool in combating hostile and unsafe learning environments for all students.

When is Iowa GSA Day and where is it held?
Iowa GSA Day will be held on Wednesday, January 28, 2009. Iowa GSA Day events will happen on high school and college campuses throughout the state.

I don’t have a GSA. Can I/my school/college still participate?
Yes! Any student, school or college can participate—even if they don’t have a GSA. We do ask that all students, schools and colleges register on our website (see info below). If you don’t yet have a GSA, participating in Iowa GSA Day is a great way to inform your administration about the need for a GSA and the benefits they bring to all students! Please call 515-243-1110 for more info on individual ways to be involved!

What is a GSA and how many are there in Iowa?
A Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) is a student-run club, which provides a safe place for students to meet, support each other, and talk about issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity, and work to end homophobia and transphobia. Many GSA's function as a support group and provide safety and confidentiality to students who are struggling with their identity as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ). The student group also serves as a voice for LGBTQ students and works to help the school become more inclusive and safe. Most GSAs in Iowa are made up of both straight identified students and LGBTQ students. Currently there are approximately 100 active GSAs in Iowa’s high schools and colleges.

Do GSAs really work to end homophobia and violence?
Yes. GSAs decrease absenteeism, name-calling, harassment and assault. According to the 2007 Iowa School Climate Survey, LGBT students in schools WITH GSAs:

· 25% are less likely to be verbally harassed because of their gender
· 23% of LGBT students are less likely to skip class
· 23% are less likely to be physically assaulted because of their sexual orientation
· 21% are more likely to report never having been sexually harassed at school
· 12% are less likely to be physically harassed because of their gender expression
· 12% are less likely to be physically assaulted because of their gender expression
· 10% are less likely to be verbally harassed because of their gender expression
· 10% are less likely to be physically harassed because of their sexual orientation
· 10% more likely to report never being cyber-bullied because of their gender8% more likely to report being rarely cyber-bullied because of their sexual orientation or gender expression

How do we participate in Iowa GSA Day?
To participate, register your GSA with Iowa Pride Network at (Registration Forms for the day will be on our website shortly!) Simply click the “Iowa GSA Day” button and fill out the form and describe what your GSA is planning to do and why your GSA is important to you. Once you do this, your GSA is automatically entered to win DVDs, Books and other materials! Each GSA across the state can design activities to fit their school or college based on our three main areas of focus:

BE VISIBLE: Make sure that people know your GSA exists and why. Make t-shirts. Make fliers and hand them out at lunch. Have a panel discussion or lead a staff training to discuss your GSA. Hold a GSA meeting where you bring your friends—just be visible and let people know why you love and appreciate your GSA and how they can be involved!

SHOW APPRECIATION: Do you have a fantastic GSA advisor? Do you have supportive teachers, administrators or community members?—Let them know by giving them a card or thank-you note. Show appreciation for your group by discussing your group’s history. Take the time to research your GSA’s history, or if you started it, write down your history and pass it on to new GSA leaders. Understanding and appreciating where you’ve been will help the group feel confident in creating change for the future!

GET ORGANIZED: Sit down with your GSA and plan for the future. What are your goals for the GSA? What do you want to accomplish? Do you want to increase attendance, improve programming, or make your school safer? Do you know who next year’s leaders will be? Answering these questions will ensure that your group is getting organized. Make sure you plan to attend Iowa Pride Network events and join a regional coalition. Look around. Are there other schools in your area that should have a GSA? If so, network with those schools and colleges and serve as a mentor to them. Make sure to inform Iowa Pride Network about the new GSAs—so that way, next year’s Iowa GSA Day can have an even bigger impact!

Register now for Queer Youth Summit!

Join your LGBTQA friends at the QUEER YOUTH SUMMIT!

The mission of the Queer Youth Summit is to provide a safe forum for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and allied (LGBTA) students to discuss emerging issues in the LGBTA social justice movement and understand how their voices and action can create a more welcoming and affirming society. The Summit also aims to provide necessary tools and resources to students to ensure that their Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA) and student organizations are serving as catalysts for change.

More information can be found on our website:


Thursday, November 13, 2008

IPN concerned about weakened UI Policy

Student Government Rejects Funding to Anti-Gay Student Group; Administration Bullied into Reversing Decision

Des Moines, IA – November 13 – Iowa Pride Network is expressing concern that the University of Iowa may have violated its own policy on Human Rights with the approval of funding to a Christian group that specifically targets gays and lesbians and other students of “sexual impropriety”.

“Members of the UI Student Government committee that allocates fees for student groups were correct in denying the Christian Legal Society funding based on its mission that violated the University of Iowa’s Human Rights Policy,” stated Ryan Roemerman, Executive Director of Iowa Pride Network, a non-profit organization that networks and provides resources to Gay-Straight Alliances across Iowa.

This is not the first time the Christian Legal Society and its legal counsel have threatened lawsuits in Iowa. Last fall, this same type of controversy erupted on Iowa State University’s campus after conservative Christian groups tried to persuade Iowa State’s administration into allowing varying degrees of discrimination into ISU’s student organization policies. At that time, the ISU Student Government passed a resolution, “opposing the accommodation of any violation to the University’s non-discrimination policy.”

“Universities must realize that having an accepting and inclusive campus climate is crucial to the learning outcomes of its students,” stated Roemerman; adding that, “Allowing UI student organizations to discriminate and violate the UI Human Rights Policy is a dangerous precedent to set.”


Christian group gets funding despite concerns

Melanie Kucera - The Daily Iowan
Issue date: 11/11/08

A Christian-based student group that requires its members to agree to abstain from "sexual conduct" outside of "traditional marriage" was recently approved for UI Student Government funding despite concern that its mission violates the UI Policy on Human Rights.

Members of the UISG committee that allocates fees for student groups initially denied the Christian Legal Society funding based on its constitution, but the panel's members were contacted by the group's Virginia-based counsel, Casey Mattox, arguing for the $550 in funds. UISG then approved the funds at an Oct. 28 meeting.

The First Amendment protects the group's right to express its views, argued Mattox, an attorney with the Center for Law and Religious Freedom. That includes an opposition to what it considers moral or sexual impropriety - including homosexual conduct.

But, he said, despite requiring its voting members to sign the "Statement of Faith," the group doesn't preclude homosexuals from participating as non-voting members so he argues it does not violate the UI Policy on Human Rights.

"Even if you have a male student president, and he is sleeping with his girlfriend, that is an issue," Mattox said.

The group faced scrutiny in 2003-04, when the chapter formed at the UI, and the same national group's attorneys were involved before the UI finally approved the Christian Legal Society constitution. Society President Jonathan Landon, a second-year law student, pointed to the specific constitutional language that has raised eyebrows.

It requires that "members and officers of the chapter must abstain from all forms of sexual conduct and relations outside the confines of traditional marriage and/or the advocacy thereof."

Tom Baker, the associate dean of students, said he did not know of any other UI student organization that has had to bring in legal support over the past five years. He noted the "national pattern" the Christian Legal Society has faced with other public universities objecting to its constitution. Mattox said the "Statement of Faith" has raised issues on campuses for the past 10-15 years with roughly six lawsuits arising.

For example, Illinois State University's chapter sued the school after it de-recognized the group on the grounds that the "Statement of Faith" violated a university affirmative-action policy. The school reached a settlement with the group in 2007. Mattox said if the UI were to refuse funding for the group, the Center for Law and Religious Freedom would consider legal action.

"We would have certainly been willing to litigate" to protect the chapter's First Amendment rights, he said.

Student-government budget-committee member Johnathon Racine said he remains concerned about the group's statement and believes it does violate the UI Human Rights Policy.

"The membership clauses concern me," he wrote in an e-mail. "Any open [lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender] student couldn't feel fully embraced in this organization."

Racine, who has been involved with that community's issues in the UISG Senate for two years, noted that he is not trying to prohibit the religious organization from campus.

"I believe that our chapter here at the university can stand up and show how open-minded this campus is," he said. "They should say to the national organization that if they want a chapter at the University of Iowa, then they will waive this requirement."

For now, with around one-third of the funds allocated that the group requested, all parties have expressed some form of content.

Patch Cebrzynski, the chief financial officer of the budget committee, said it was never looking to single out the organization but wanted to "double-check and make sure the constitution was acceptable."

Tom Rocklin, the interim vice president for Student Services, was copied on the Center for Law and Religious Freedom's letter. He worked with the budget committee to resolve the issue.

"I feel comfortable that the student government understands the situation, and I am confident that we won't run into this problem again," Rocklin said.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

WIOS Just Days Away...

The first Western Iowa Organizing Summit--or WIOS for short--will be held this weekend in Omaha! Iowa Pride Network and University of Nebraksa Omaha's Gender and Sexual Orientation Student Agency are co-hosting a summit designed to network the LGBTA students and service providers of Western Iowa and neighboring states. The aim is to increase leadership skills, build a broader coalition of support, and provide resources to overcome the unique barriers facing rural LGBTA students.

As most of you know, growing up LGBTA and/or living in rural America comes with its own set of circumstances and sometimes barriers (distance being one!). We want to explore ways to help break down these barriers and create a solid network for LGBTA students.
If you or someone you know is interested in attending please register online at:


Monday, October 13, 2008

Friday, October 10, 2008

Iowa Pride Network releases 2007 school climate survey

New Study Shows Gay-Straight Alliances, Inclusive Policies Reduce Harassment

West Des Moines, IA – January 30 – Iowa Pride Network today announced findings from the 2007 Iowa School Climate Survey (ISCS), the only state survey to document the experiences of students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) in Iowa's schools. The survey results were released today at West Des Moines Valley High School in conjunction with Iowa Pride Network's 2nd Annual Gay-Straight Alliance Day.

"The 2007 Iowa School Climate Survey reveals that anti-LGBT bullying and harassment remain commonplace in Iowa's schools," said Iowa Pride Network Co-Founder and Director Ryan Roemerman. "On the positive side, it also makes clear that inclusive policies, supportive school staff and student clubs, like Gay-Straight Alliances, all relate to reduced harassment and higher achieving students."

Key findings from the 2007 Iowa Pride Network School Climate Survey include:

Iowa’s LGBT students continue to feel unsafe in school and face verbal and physical harassment or assault daily:

  • Nine in ten students (91%) of LGBT students in Iowa reported hearing homophobic remarks frequently in their schools.
  • Over a third (36%) of Iowa LGBT students reported some incident of physical harassment (being pushed or shoved) because of their sexual orientation; while nearly 16% of students reported some incident of physical assault (being punched, kicked or injured with a weapon) because of their sexual orientation or gender expression.

Anti-harassment and non-discrimination policies with enumerated categories such as “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” do work to end bullying, harassment and discrimination in our schools. In schools WITH inclusive policies:

  • Students were 3 times more likely to report never being verbally harassed
  • 10% more students report never being physically harassed
  • 12% more students report never having their property stolen or deliberately damaged
  • 17% more students report never having mean lies or rumors spread about them
  • 20% more students report never being sexually harassed
  • 20% more students report never being physically assaulted
  • 37% more students report never being cyber-bullied

Students who have a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) in their school report having decreased absenteeism, lower rates of name calling, harassment and assault. In schools WITH GSAs:

  • 25% are less likely to be verbally harassed because of their gender
  • 23% of LGBT students are less likely to skip class and 15% are less likely to not attend school because of feeling uncomfortable or unsafe
  • 23% are less likely to be physically assaulted because of their sexual orientation
  • 21% are more likely to report never having been sexually harassed at school
  • 12% are less likely to be physically harassed or assaulted because of their gender expression
  • 10% are less likely to be verbally harassed because of their gender expression or physically harassed because of their sexual orientation
  • 10% are more likely to report never being cyber-bullied because of their gender
  • 8% are more likely to report being rarely cyber-bullied because of their sexual orientation or gender expression

In response to the survey findings, the Governor’s Office has declared today “Iowa Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) Day”. The goals of Iowa Pride Network’s GSA Day are to honor GSAs, students and staff around that state that work to end violence, homophobia and transphobia in Iowa schools and colleges.

"The Governor and I are committed to doing whatever we can to ensure that every single student in this state has a safe and nurturing environment in which to learn," said Lt. Governor Patty Judge. "We commend the state's many outstanding Gay-Straight Alliances for their hard work in making our schools more accepting and welcoming of all people."

The 2nd Annual Iowa GSA Day ( is a day where hundreds of students from dozens of secondary schools and colleges are expected to take part in activities to address the serious problems of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment, while advocating for solutions - like GSAs and educator trainings - to ensure safe schools for ALL students.

The 2007 Iowa Pride Network School Climate Survey included responses from 180 LGBT and allied high school students from 37 schools across the state. Key findings, the complete survey and additional information about methodology and demographics may be obtained by calling the Iowa Pride Network at 515-243-1110 or by visiting

About Iowa Pride Network
Iowa Pride Network empowers students to fight homophobia and transphobia in high schools and colleges by supporting gay-straight alliance (GSA) clubs and providing leadership opportunities and organizing projects centered on social justice.

University of Northern Iowa, Urbandale High School named “Best Gay-Straight Alliances”

For Immediate Release
Contact: Ryan Roemerman, Director, Iowa Pride Network,
515-243-1110 (Daytime Phone) 515-371-8355 (Nighttime Phone)

University of Northern Iowa, Urbandale High School named “Best Gay-Straight Alliances”

(Des Moines) The University of Northern Iowa and Urbandale High School were presented with Iowa Pride Network’s Award for Best Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) at the Annual Iowa Pride Network Honors program held in Des Moines during its annual Spring Soiree fundraising event.

The Iowa Pride Network Awards go to GSAs that have shown a committed effort to raising awareness of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues on their campuses and in their communities and have pioneered programs that have increased the respect of LGBT people. Each application is evaluated on five categories: Education, Programming, Advocacy, Outreach and Community Service with consideration given to the impact their GSA programs and initiatives have on the climate and culture of their community.
“Both award-winning GSAs has worked hard to educate their campuses about the prejudices that still exist for LGBT and Straight Allied people and provided venues for their group, its members and classmates to have an open dialogue,” stated Ryan Roemerman, Iowa Pride Network Director.

In addition two very successful weeks of awareness, UNI’s GSA held weekly meetings that focused on body image issues, gay-marriage, transgender vocabulary, civil rights and LGBT history. GSA members participated in over 30 panel discussions for various residence halls and campus departments. The group is currently in the process of creating a fully established speakers bureau.

Urbandale’s GSA was active in helping pass Iowa’s Safe Schools Law and has taught fellow students about their rights, what teachers should do to protect them, and what they can do to protect other students. GSA members also fought to participate in the National Day of Silence. Some community members were pushing for the school to ban student participation in the day. Urbandale’s administration, after hearing from GSA members, wouldn’t allow the Day of Silence to be banned.

“Ultimately,” as one student explained, “the most important thing our GSA can do is to provide a safe learning environment for LGBT and Straight Allied Students to go. This year I had two close friends come-out to me and their parents. One student’s parents were very supportive; the other sent him to a therapist. I encouraged him to join the GSA. We all shared our coming-out stories. After the meeting, my friend told me that it really helped to know he wasn’t alone.”

Ten Years of Change - No Progress

Read more about Judy Shepard's views about the ten years since Matthew's death here.

Anti-bullying bill passes Iowa Senate

by TODD DORMAN, Globe Gazette Des Moines Bureau

DES MOINES — A bill requiring school districts to adopt anti-bullying policies expressly protecting gay and lesbian students cleared the Iowa Senate Tuesday night.

The bill, approved 36-14, is a top priority for Democrats who control the Iowa Senate and House. Passage sends the bill to the House, which could send it to Gov. Chet Culver as early as today.

Sen. Amanda Ragan, D-Mason City, voted for the bill; Sen. Thurman Gaskill, R-Corwith, against it.

“I think this is a historic night for the Senate and a great night for the students of Iowa,” said Sen. Mike Connolly, D-Dubuque, the bill’s lead sponsor. “This bill is about providing a safe and civil environment in schools.”

Republicans criticized the bill, arguing that it would be what one GOP senator called a “litigation golden goose” that could be costly for schools.

Six Republicans joined 30 Democrats voting in favor of the bill.

The bill requires school districts to enact a policy by Sept. 1 targeting bullying and harassment against students. But schools also would be expected to take specific aim at bullies whose taunts are tied to a list of real or perceived traits and characteristics.

The list includes, “age, color, creed, national origin, race, religion, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender, identity, physical attributes, physical or mental ability or, disability, ancestry, political beliefs, socioeconomic status, or familial status.”

Supporters argue that homosexual students and others listed in the bill have endured what they called a “historic pattern” of harassment in schools and deserve special attention from local officials.

Districts can add to the list, but can’t subtract categories. The bill would apply to students, staff and volunteers at all accredited public and nonpublic schools.

Republicans argued the bill could open the door for legal action against private, religious schools with doctrines that regard homosexuality as a sin. GOP senators offered an amendment seeking to exempt non-public schools from having to adopt the state-mandated policy.

But the amendment was defeated on a 28-22 vote.