Would a public school that caters to gay and lesbian teens be a welcome addition to CPS? That was the question at hand during a meeting of about 200 people yesterday at the Center on Halsted who discussed The Social Justice High School – Pride Campus with leaders of the Gay Liberation Network. The idea for this new school, born of a push from Greater Lawndale Little Village High School for Social Justice, is that it would provide a safe learning environment for LGBT teens who are frequently victims of torment.
"[We want] to continue to provide a college-prep campus for students who are often overlooked," said Chad Weiden, an assistant principal at the Social Justice High School who would be the principal of Pride Campus. "Gay, lesbian and transgender students are often overlooked in our district. And this is a school for all students."
The school would welcome students of any sexual orientation, with a goal to have an approximate 40/60 split between straight and LGBT students. A high population of minorities is also expected.
Naysayers are concerned that this is a form of segregation, and that it alleviates our school system from its responsibility to educate and provide safe space for all students. Andy Thayer, a co-founder of the Gay Liberation Network, says, "My fear is that the rest of the system will be let off the hook…The notion that the Pride Campus is a silver bullet to set aside all needs of [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] youth is mistaken."
The idea behind this type of campus was trailblazed by the Harvey Milk High School which has thrived in New York, although not without encountering similar controversy. Considering the suicide rate among gay youth is sky high, this could be a welcome alternative to typical public high school for many gay students in Chicago.
We’re concerned this may fuel the fire of some already-homophobic community members that could see this as validation that gay people are somehow abnormal. That said, enrollment at Pride Campus would be voluntary, and we’re all for having choices. [Trib]
Photo by mhaithaca.