Interrogating Discourse of "At Risk": An Examination of the Social, Political, and Educational Impact of High School Gar-Strait Alliances
Stefan, Abby Jane
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This thesis investigates the experiences of five faculty advisors of high school Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) within Ontario, Canada. Drawing on perspectives of critical pedagogy, queer theory, and critical discourse analysis, I investigated the potential of these student organizations to challenge heteronormative school cultures that label LGBTQ students as an “at risk” population in need of “safe spaces.” Data were collected from in-depth, semi-structured interviews with faculty advisors, including two one-to-one interviews, one email interview, and one focus group interview. This research not only illustrates how top-down discourses of “risk” and “safe spaces” regulate the policies and practices deemed appropriate for GSAs, but also the possibility for bottom-up discourses of student and teacher resistance to school-based heteronormative ideologies. I conclude with a discussion of how to move GSAs beyond the “safe space” discourse into one where a critical and social justice framework may initiate a school-wide conversation on LGBTQ student rights.