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School for GLBT kids


Cole Parker

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This article, written by Nicole santa Cruz, appeared in the LA Times this week:

Aiden Aizumi almost didn't graduate from high school.

Aizumi, now 21, is one of many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender young people who say they have suffered through school, enduring homophobic taunts and name-calling.

He completed his final semester of high school from home.

His mother, Marsha Aizumi, didn't want others to endure the same treatment, so she approached educators about a new school geared for such students.

The school, which serves grades seven through 12, is a collaboration between Opportunities for Learning, a charter school with 34 locations across Los Angeles and Orange counties, and Lifeworks, a mentoring program for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth sponsored by the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center.

The school opened for enrollment at the center in January, but it will host an open house from 3 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at 1125 N. McCadden Place.

Currently the satellite campus employs one teacher. Three students will begin instruction in the upcoming weeks.

The school's independent study program is tailored to individual student needs.

Students meet with an instructor twice a week and are expected to complete between four and six hours of work at home each weekday.

School officials will expand the program, which is open to about 40 students, if the need arises. Those officials say they aren't aware of any similar schools in the county.

Michael Ferrera, the director of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, said there's a demand for more safe programs that award high school diplomas rather than high school equivalency certificates.

About 86% of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender students reported experiencing harassment at school, according to a 2007 survey conducted by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.

About three-fifths of students felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation and one-third had skipped school because of feeling unsafe, the survey found.

Eliza Byard, the executive director of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, said schools that embrace every aspect of diversity are greatly needed.

"One could really not create enough seats for the kinds of needs that are out there," she said.

Ferrera said the educational addition to the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center makes it a "one-stop" shop for services ranging from job placement to housing.

Students can also participate in various community programs offered by the center. Aizumi said he'd love to see students succeed in the charter school but wishes it weren't necessary for some.

High school, he said, is hard enough.

Frankly, I dislike this approach. To me it smacks of segregation, and irresponsibility. I would much prefer to see strict rules against harassment being enforced at all schools, perhaps with an adult being charged with enforcement required by law at every school.

The way to end discrimination and prejudice is through education of the masses and integration of the minority into the majority, not separating those who are different.

I like it there is a safe haven for these kids. I think it's providing it the wrong way, however, and doing ill service to both gay and straight kids at the same time.

C

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I agree with your analysis, Cole. It reminds me very strongly that I live in a region not that many years beyond the "separate but equal" spin put on segregated schooling. Integration, along with strong supervision and enforcement, finally broke down that particular smoke and mirror ploy, although de facto segregation still exists and it is no child's friend.

James Merkin

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I don't agree with all of you but not because of the principle, but because of the reality.

Let's just look at it as if it were a black white issues as was so sadly prevalent in the USA only a few decades ago, and still a issue in some locations today. If you had 10% blacks going to 90% white schools, or 10% whites going to 90% black schools, would that have provided proper 'integration'? No way. It required a concerted effort to make the numbers close to 50/50 to make a real difference. Would forcing 10% minorities into the 90% majority school have helped them. No way. The individual students were better off with their own separate but equal schools.

Your ideas are worthy ones, but won't work with the reality of GLBT being only about 10% of the population. In the meantime, separation might be a better alternative than the current one which is proving to be a serious problem.

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I agree 1000% with Cole. This whole "separate but equal" thing is just bogus to me.

The sooner that gay kids learn how to function in the real world, the better off they're going to be. While I don't doubt there's tons of harassment and fighting going on in schools (for gays, minorities, and anybody who's different), I think there's a way to learn how to assimilate and fit in... and for that matter, learn how to defend yourself.

Eventually, these kids are going to have to grow up and go to colleges, live in neighborhoods, and work for businesses that are 90% straight. That's the way the real world is.

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The gay kids ARE dealing with it as best they can. They hide their sexual orientation as much as possible, and in some cases they bully others who are 'out' in order to protect themselves. What you are proposing is a continuation of the current situation. Defend themselves? The moment you do ANYTHING to defend yourself you are a victim of the official policy of no violence of any kind. It's simply a matter of goading the minority till they snap, then blame them for the violence.

Education is the obvious answer, but expecting proper education in this with the current climate is just stupid. There is more interference with good teaching now than ever before. And if you think this is just a discussion about GLBT, think again. This same issue applies to having kids with Down's in classes, mainstreaming deaf and blind, autistics, illiterate, immigrants, and on and on. I know what it SHOULD be, but expecting that to happen is simply foolishness. There is no willingness to be accommodating at any level of administration, and without that, as well as without parental and societal support, there is not going to be any change in behaviour.

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I was out at 13 in a school in rural Mississippi during the seventies. Not my choice but no shit, I was there.

I daresay that if there is a way to fuck with, torture or humiliate someone, I've probably seen it.

I've also seen what happened when there were segregated black and white schools: white schools got the best of everything and black schools were zoos.

Honestly, parents are in a position to make the worst mistakes and do the most damage. Many of them are in deep denial about their kids sexuality. They would fight you tooth and nail if you suggested that their kid was gay or that they should attend a school for those people.

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James has the key concern laid out: in my small community, I cannot envision any of the "proper" people in town allowing their child to be identified as gay, much less separated out and sent to a different school. I can envision this scenario on any given morning: "Hey, there's Jimmy waiting for the Queer Bus! Let's get him!"

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So you are advocating keeping in the closet. I think the point is that there should be a school AVAILABLE to those who want to attend, not to force anyone to attend it. If they find the regular school system simply too much, they have an alternative other than either quitting school or suicide.

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There are so many problems involved in this subject, so many things I would like to address, but I will try to be brief. :rolleyes: (I said brief, not quiet!)

Segregation never seems to me to solve anything but the immediate confrontations between people.

So it may be necessary in the short term but it is not a long term solution to the problems which initiated the need for the physical separation.

Whilst I agree with Cole and Brody that education is the key, I think we must not only seek to eradicate the hate, but the cause of the hate, the misinformation that feeds the fears of difference.

Obviously religious doctrines which deny human rights are a large part of the problem but these and other influences on our human rights, on our ability to gain acceptance without violent confrontation are not going to be achieved without a great deal of intelligent effort.

One of the things that concerns me is the often stated statistic that GLTB are 10% of the population.

From Kinsey and other researchers, it seems to me that too often do we accept the statistics as being static.

Human sexuality need not necessarily be static, it can and does accommodate a variety of manifestations over the course of one's life.

This does not mean that the basic orientation of the individual alters or can be changed, it simply means that despite our orientation we can and do explore more than one form of sexual relationship.

If the 10 % figure is correct at all, it is in that at any given time, 10% of the population is having same sex relationships.

Even that however seems to be too narrow, too limiting. It is much more likely that 10% of the population is homosexual, and 10% is heterosexual, 5 % or so, are non-sexual or perhaps asexual, with the remaining 75% being more than capable of having a relationship with either sex, and would do so if they had not been taught that such a freedom was wrong. That teaching, I contend is patently, nuts!

It is important to note that long term relationships can develop in any of these categories.

The problems arise when the dominant cultural doctrines state that sex in one form or another is taboo, forbidden, wrong.

Whilst we can agree that children should be protected from molestation, adult (post puberty) sexual expression really needs no other limitation than that the parties consent and do no harm to each other. I admit I don't understand adults who want to limit teenagers from having sexual experiences.

(Of course all of that is oversimplified for this discussion, but I hope you understand what I am getting at.)

What about genetic determination, I hear you asking? There may well be a gene that renders the individual prone to homosexuality just as there might be one for heterosexuality. I would suggest however that the need to produce offspring is dominant in 95% of the population at some time of their individual lives, Certainly the desire to raise children is prominent in most people at some time in their lives. The desire to love and be loved is universal; Love is the affinity we feel for each other. It is the measure, the compassion, the spirit of our humanity, and it is in our sexual expression that we can learn to appreciate the joys we give each another. Love is what we give to each other. That love can be manifested as a new born human, or in the things, the experiences, we create for each other.

However the gene argument is regarded, there seems to me to be a much more important argument that human sexuality is an inalienable human right for 100% of the population, capable of being expressed in a number of ways. Over the course of their development, most cultures have developed laws, doctrines and attitudes about what is acceptable sexual practise for people in that culture.

The major problem is that those Laws, doctrines and attitudes have ignored the fact that sex is a human right, seeking as they do to make individuals conform to what other people believe is 'civilised', proper, or even worse, what their chosen deity, demands.

The problem as I see it is that all cultures need to withdraw from the bedroom, from the sexual playground of adults. They can only do that by educating the masses into realising that freedom of sexuality is a human right, regardless of gender, which no one should deny another.

Loving relationships do develop from freedom to express that love with another person, regardless of gender, and sexual expression can be a celebration of the love that exists between human beings.

It is this non-judgemental attitude that we must work towards being recognised as a universal condition of human existence, a human right.

When I stop and think of the progress that has been made since I first discovered that my sexuality was not then, legal, I am most heartened. There is however a lot of work to do, and equality of the right to marry the person of our choice, or to simply live with our loved one, is really just another battle in this war to educate the human race into accepting the freedom to be human without condemnation by gods or man-made laws.

In order to do that we must accept the goodness inherent in our human nature, denying the taboos that entrap us in dogmas of fear, denying those lies about us being evil, liberating the fears of difference and revelling in the diversity of all life.

That would make our cultures, and us, a whole lot more civilised, and loving.

I don't think it will happen as quickly as I would like, but to think it is impossible, not to work towards it in this life, on this planet, now, is unthinkable.

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I don't think separate schools are the way to go. Separation emphasizes that gays are different and should be kept from the general school community.

I was a gay kid in intermediate school (grades 6 through 8) and high school (grades 9 through 12). Both school districts had strong anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, anti-abuse, and anti-bullying polices, and still do. I was not out, and neither was my boyfriend. It wasn't because of any fear of abuse of any kind, but because both Doug and I felt it would be distracting when we were trying to get top grades so we could go to a top university. There were a lot of gay kids who were out at school. There was a large GSA chapter at our high school (and there is one now at the intermediate school). There were anti-discrimination classroom programs given in homerooms every semester. The district policies were distributed to each student during registration each year, and the students and their parents had to sign that they had read and understood the policies. Two starters on the football team were gay, boyfriends, and out, and no one cared. There was almost no discrimination, harassment, abuse, or bullying. Any that was reported was immediately responded to by the administration. Even better, when kids saw someone being hassled about being gay or black or Asian or Muslim or whatever, they'd step in and stop it or immediately report it to a teacher or administrator. The penalties were harsh: suspension or expulsion depending on the nature of the incident and the number of incidents by the offending student. When I was in high school there were two lawsuits against the school district, one trying to rescind the policies and the other trying to reverse a suspension, and the school district won every one of them while I was there.

It can be done anywhere. But it takes a school district that defines effective policies, trains staff, teaches students, and enforces the policies. It worked where I went to high school. BTW, my high school district is the top rated district in the state.

Colin :rolleyes:

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Segregation never seems to me to solve anything but the immediate confrontations between people.

So it may be necessary in the short term but it is not a long term solution to the problems which initiated the need for the physical separation.

Most of the posters here who are against the idea have taken the long term view and I think they're correct. It's not a long term solution.

The reason for the proposal and Trab's view is short term -- there is a need now to protect kids. When the school is not protecting the kids (unlike the school that Colin went to), then something has to be done. Some kids are strong enough to cope and even potentially thrive. James did :rolleyes: Other kids are not. I think we have all heard of teenage gay kids committing suicide. For many of those it's not home that drives them over the edge, it's school or their age peers.

As Des has said, segregation is an accepted way to stop conflict between two parties. This proposal does so.

BUT, it's only a first step. The longer term goal should be to change the culture of the schools so segregation is not needed. As Colin and others have said, it can be done, but it needs strong and fair direction from the top down. Not all school districts have this. Where they do, the segregation approach is definitely not needed and should not be used. When a school has a culture of abusive behaviour to minorities, and the school authorities appear unwilling or unable to stop that culture, then segregation is the humane approach to take, for the sake of the minorities.

A comment was made about what happens after school finishes. My view is that attitudes change after graduation. I still remember a survey here in Australia that indicated that the most homophobic group were 14-18 year old males. ie. High school kids. After high school, when they get out of that pressure cooker and, to be honest, very artificial environment, they'll find that the world is different. Let's get the gay kids to finish high school. If they can learn to cope in a straight world in high school -- great! If they can't, then let them put off that learning until they're older and more mature and have graduated from high school.

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If you had 10% blacks going to 90% white schools, or 10% whites going to 90% black schools, would that have provided proper 'integration'? No way.

The dirty little secret of education is that in many districts, schools ARE still segregated, because neighborhoods are segregated. Not by law, but by cost of living.

Where I live, there are three big districts: One is about 90% black and working-class. One is about 90% white and middle-class. One is about 99% white and upper-class.

Then there are the charter schools, which are all about 99% black and working-class, and the private schools, which are all about 99% white and upper-class.

The predominantly black schools have less funding, because they are located in areas with few home-owners (i.e. no property tax to pay for schools). As such, they are dumping grounds for rookie teachers who put in their one or two years and then get the hell out of there to teach in a "good" district. These schools are physically run-down, dirty, understaffed, and overcrowded, and they're always rated in "academic emergency" (on the verge of being closed for low test scores). Often times, they do not have playgrounds or sports equipment for the kids at recess - just an empty parking lot.

The school where I work is in such a location - the student population is 98% Black, 1.5% Hispanic, and .5% Caucasian. Over 95% of the kids live below the poverty line, few of them with both parents. Several are homeless, living out of shelters. Some of their parents are gang members, raising their kids to follow in their footsteps. Some of the parents are in prison. As if their lives weren't tough enough, they're being sent to a rather dreadful school, where a lack of funding prevents art, music, gym, extra-curriculars, science, and social studies from being taught. NONE of that would fly in either of the white districts.

The school from the article sounds disconcerting, at best. It's a charter school, which means it gets its funding on a per-student basis...but it has only three students. And its one teacher is responsible for all subjects in grades 7-12? Sketchy. Also, when there are so few students around, it can seriously hurt the socialization process - if one of those three kids doesn't really "click" with the other two, he/she isn't going to have any friends. Homeschoolers (the good ones, anyway) remedy this by getting their kids into a bunch of afterschool programs with peers...but it seems like the whole point of this school is to AVOID peers.

I could understand doing something like this in an emergency situation, in which a student is in such danger that the parents deem it necessary to pull them out of school, and one-on-one tutoring and homeschooling are not possible, but...I don't know. It just rings as "off" for me.

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Mr. Graeme? Sir... You said; "Let's get the gay kids to finish high school. If they can learn to cope in a straight world in high school -- great! If they can't, then let them put off that learning until they're older and more mature and have graduated from high school."

I would tell you kindly that is exactly the wrong way to look at this. Again, the problem is NOT the LGBT kids is it?

No, the problem is the bullies and Judy's humane and brave decision which is exemplified and illustrated by her creating the Foundation that bears her son's name is the solution. Mr. Colin? You were dead on my young friend.

I completely agree!

My point is that it's fine to say that the problem is the bullies, but that's not a solution. That's just identifying the problem.

What's the solution? Colin's school has it right... but not every school is doing that. Until they do, what do you expect the gay kids who are being bullied to do? Commit suicide because they can't cope? Drop out of school and lose their futures?

Yes, I'm picking extreme examples, BUT THEY HAPPEN!!!

Until the school system is fixed, I want those kids protected! The proposal is a really bad long term solution, but it's a lot better short term solution than leaving the kids where they are while the school system debates on what changes they should be making (with some people arguing that there is no need to change anything).

So... my counter statement to yours is, yes, I agree, but what's your solution for those schools where there isn't a strong anti-bullying/anti-discriminatory policy in place? The suggestion above is A solution... what are the others?

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I could understand doing something like this in an emergency situation, in which a student is in such danger that the parents deem it necessary to pull them out of school, and one-on-one tutoring and homeschooling are not possible, but...I don't know. It just rings as "off" for me.

My concern is that the "gay school" would be a dumping ground for problems like flawed "alternative" schools that we saw in Mississippi during the 80s-90s and early 2000s.

Kids ended up getting sent there simply because they were deemed "difficult" and alternative schools quickly became zoos where inmates were running the asylum.

The quickest way to get labeled "difficult" or "a problem" was to complain or have parents that complained.

Many, many kids were sent to alternative school because they complained about bullying and ended up in a school where the real thugs and hoods were sent so for years no one dared to complain.

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As a way of evaluating the effectiveness of the proposal (which I think we all agree is not a good long term solution), isn't there such a school already existing in New York. Does anyone know anything about it?

I've just found this article that debates whether the Harvey Milk High School is a good idea. I haven't read it yet (I just did a quick search to see if I could find any relevant links). It's from almost five years ago so if anyone has an update as to how it is progressing, it would be good to know :rolleyes:

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