Though some people fear teens who attend gay high schools will become isolated, for those who have the chance, the experience is often very positive.
The Harvey Milk High School
In the early 1980s New York City saw the opening of the Harvey Milk school. This was the country's first GLBT friendly school and in 2003 it expanded and joined the New York City public school system.
Fears About the Impact of a GLBT School
At the time, this lead to some predictable grumblings about how the school would contribute to "immoral" behavior, and some less predictable ones.
Though many in the GLBT community deeply supported the school, some worried that the Harvey Milk students would be isolated and not prepared for the wider world. Additionally, concerns were raised about the effects on hetero teens who would be denied the ability to interact with their GLBT peers.
These fears have not really panned out. Harvey Milk serves teens who desperately need a safe place to learn, free from homophobia and bullying. And since the school only takes a limited number of students, the great majority New York's gay teens are in traditional schools, interacting with non-gay kids and facing the challenges that can bring every day.
A GLBT School in Chicago?
Almost 30 years later, another GLBT-friendly school has been proposed, this time in Chicago.
However, this school seems unlikely to open any time soon, partly, because of similar concerns to those voiced over Harvey Milk. In October 2008, the Chicago mayor and school board backed down from the Chicago school. As the mayor explained:
“You have to look at whether or not you isolate and segregate children. A holistic approach has always been to have children of all different backgrounds in schools. When you start isolating children and you say, ‘Only 50 percent here, 40 percent here’ — same thing we went through with the disabled — then you want to do that when they’re adults.”
GLBT Online High School
Imagine a school where you can be you. Where your friends share similar experiences and similar questions. Where you can get a high quality education while receiving comprehensive support from adults and peers. Where all staff members genuinely want to work with you. Because of who you are. Even if you're not sure.
That's the pitch for a new GLBT online high school set to open January 2010.
An online high school would provide a safe way for gay kids to get an education -- something everyone deserves. Of course, what you gain in safety, you might lose in socializing. But that might be a good trade if the social aspect of school isn't giving you anything but grief.
The Big Picture
No one argues that we shouldn't have Catholic schools because every single Catholic kid in the world should be integrated into the larger community for the sake of diversity. So why should that argument be made for GLBT students?