Imagine a school where GLBT students can walk down the hall without fear of being called names or even suffering physical assault; where unlike the majority of America’s schools, where fellow students, and sometimes teachers, hurl verbal harassment, queer youth are safe among others who understand them, because the school is designed for GLBT students to call their own.
Arne Duncan, chief of
As it happened, the proposal was shot down, but
A Dec. 16 article at Newsbuster asks, "So, how often do you think that the Old Media will mention that Barack Obama’s choice for Secretary of Education,
The article quoted
The article speculated that Duncan might "attempt to force school systems all across the country to start up their own gay, lesbian and transgender schools," while at Christian right-wing site CNS News a Dec. 17 story declared, "Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan, who President-elect Barack Obama announced yesterday as his choice to be Secretary of Education, supported and approved plans for a special public high school for homosexuals."
The school would also have been open for straight students, but would have made a focus on support for GLBT youth, including allowing discussion of significant gay and lesbian figures to occur in the classroom.
But social and religious conservatives have blasted the idea, along with
The CNS article quoted anti-gay Illinois Family Institute spokesperson Laurie Higgins, who said of the pick, "Our concern, of course, is that [Duncan is] going to take these values–these arguable, unproven theories about homosexuality and how public schools should treat it–and using his power and position, affirm that in some kind of more nationwide proposals, or policies."
Higgins added that
"In order to have curricula that affirm homosexuality, you have to have come to these prior conclusions."
CNS also quoted the Gay-Straight-Alliance for Safe Schools executive director, Cindy Crane, who offered a view from the other side, saying, "We very much support these sort of efforts [at supporting GLBT youth]."
"[F]rom that perspective, we’re very happy that [
Added Crane, "We’re pleased that someone who established himself as understanding the special challenges of LGBTs or sexual minorities within his own state is now in a federal position, and will be able to influence legislation and budgets on a federal level."
According to GLBT student support and advocacy organization GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network), about 5 percent of high school students identify as gay or lesbian. Many of them face physical and verbal harassment at school, due to real or perceived sexual orientation.
According to the GLSEN Web site, "4 out of 5 LGBT students hear homophobic remarks often in their schools.
"39% of LGBT students report being verbally or physically assaulted, often with a weapon and transgender students reported physical harassment 30% more than students that identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual.
"Nearly 1 out of 3 LGBT students skipped school in the past month because they were simply too afraid to go."
According to the Web site Inside Schools.org, Harvey Milk High School in New York is a four-year school with a student body of 99 and a 20 percent graduation rate.
The enrollees at the school break down ethnically to 47 percent Black, 33 percent Hispanic, 13 percent Asian, and 8 percent White.
As would have been the case at Chicago’s proposed Social Justice High School-Pride Campus, Harvey Milk High School is open to straights as well as to gay and lesbian students.
Kilian Melloy reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes commentary for EDGEBoston, where he also serves as Assistant Arts Editor.
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