Fraternities and sororities exist for high school students as well as college students. Like their college counterparts, most have Greek letter names. Although there were countless local high school fraternities and sororities with only one or two chapters, many secondary fraternities founded in the nineteenth, and twentieth, century in the United States grew into national organizations with a highly evolved governing structure and regularly chartered chapters in multiple regions. Many of the local chapters of these national fraternities were not tied to (or affiliated with) individual high schools but were instead area based, often drawing membership from multiple high schools in a given area.
High school fraternities and sororities were inspired by and modeled after Greek-letter organizations which became prevalent in North American colleges and universities during the nineteenth century (Owen 492). In some respects these fraternities and sororities are designed to better prepare individuals for college level fraternities. The first known high school fraternity was Torch and Dagger in Council Bluffs, Iowa, founded in 1859. This organization existed with lapses from 1861 to 1866 and again from 1880 to 1893. In 1900 it was renamed Omega Eta Tau and began expanding nationally. Gamma Sigma was organized in October 1869 at Brockport Normal School (then a high school level institution, but now a college). Alpha Zeta came into existence at the Union Classical Institute in Schenectady, New York (associated with Union College, home of the college fraternity movement) on December 8, 1869, Alpha Phi followed one year later at the Colgate Academy (connected with Colgate University) and Pi Phi was founded in 1878 at Rochester Free Academy (associated with University of Rochester). Pi Phi spread to more than 110 chapters before lapsing into solely alumni chapters in the 1980s. Most of the American secondary fraternities that were successful in the twentieth century had national governing bodies, produced regular publications and convened in regular (often annual) national conventions. They also each possessed a secret ritual and handshake and a Greek-letter name which, like college fraternities was usually derived from the abbreviation of a secret Greek motto. These groups were identified by a coat-of-arms and members wore distinctive fraternity badges or pins.
In the 1900s, some state governments banned fraternities and sororities in public schools, driving them underground, or out of existence. California, for example, passed a law banning them in 1906.