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Chicago Thinks Gay-Friendly High School May Be Answer

In Chicago, the school system is trying to tackle a problem of harassment and violence toward gay students. The public schools CEO's solution seems simple: Open a "gay-friendly" high school.

The school's curriculum would not differ from other schools. However, it would offer counseling for students and the curriculum would incorporate lessons about sexual identity in history and literature classes, officials told CNN. This gay-friendly school would not be the first of its kind. That title goes to The Harvey Milk High School in New York City.

Safe school environments for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) tweens and teens are not the norm, according to a survey released last week by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). About 86 percent of the more than 6,000 middle and high school students surveyed said they experienced harassment at school in the past year, according to the survey. In addition, more than 60 percent felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation and about a third of LGBT students skipped school because they felt unsafe. One in five LGBT students report being physically assaulted at school.

In some cases around the nation, students who have expressed their sexual identity openly have paid the price with their life. Ten years ago this week, University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard was beaten to death because he was gay. And in February, Larry King, 15, of Oxnard, Calif., was shot in the head and killed by a classmate during class. King was openly gay and had expressed feelings for the boy.

So, are "gay" schools the answer?

"The Harvey Milk School is a hugely important last chance for students who otherwise wouldn't graduate," says Eliza Byard, GLSEN's deputy executive director. "Students there have been referred by other schools [because they've experienced harassment]. It’s an answer to a particular part of the problem. Ideally, every school would be a safe place for all students to learn."

Byard suggests two solutions she describes as easy to implement: A clearly stated and understood anti-harassment school policy and supportive adults. Most of the time, students don't report harassment because they don't think anyone is going to do anything, a thought supported by the evidence, Byard says. "It's extremely disturbing when 80 percent of the time school staff are present when incidents take place, they rarely or never intervene." Teachers and administrators need to know it's their job to intervene and that they'll be supported when they do, she adds.

How do you think schools should handle harassment of gay students? Do you think segregating students by sexual identity is the answer?

Elsewhere in the News: Pediatricians Double Vitamin D Recommendations

By Stacey Garfinkle |  October 14, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Safety , Teens , Tweens
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Comments


Sure, take the gay kids out. That way the kids who are teasing them will have no exposure to gay people and continue to hold onto their prejudices well into adulthood. Here's an idea, why not take the kids who are harassing others for any reason out of the school and create a school for jerks? Seriously, respect should be a part of every school all day, every day. This is but one of the many reasons our kids go to private school.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | October 14, 2008 7:28 AM | Report abuse

"Gay" schools. Why not "Black" schools...maybe "Jew" schools, and "Girls Only" schools too.

Posted by: snowbucks | October 14, 2008 7:29 AM | Report abuse

Why don't officials actually deal with the bullies who are terrorizing students, regardless of why they are being terrorized?

I know it's radical to expect kids to act like human beings instead of animals, but, perhaps if we raise the bar, then they will respond.

I was bullied for being gay in high school - the problem was, I wasn't gay! I just had a friend who the other girls didn't think was "girly enough". I decided to take the heat and keep my friend, because frankly, the other girls were a pack of you know whats. That whole scenario shouldn't have happened, but they called us names, and made comments, sometimes right in front of teachers, who just laughed along with them or said nothing. No one should be treated like that in school.

Fact is, this world is made up of many different kinds of people. Each of us has a right to grow as we are and not be worried about going to school or being beat up for growing up a little differently than others.

Deal with the problem - the bullies, the close minded teachers, school rules, and leave the gay kids alone.

Posted by: catweasel3 | October 14, 2008 7:40 AM | Report abuse

While I feel bad for the gay kids in mainstream schools it doesn't seem right to me that tax payers money should go toward this while other families pay taxes and then pay out of pocket to send their kdis to Catholic schools or other private schools. This is another example of why school vouchers make sense.

Posted by: sunflower571 | October 14, 2008 8:12 AM | Report abuse

I would agree with SNOWBUCKS' & SUNFLOWER'S comments above; aside from this being taxpayer monies, would it also facilitate a breeding ground for degradation? ...

How about just teaching tolerance and sensitivity in health courses, as they do in MoCo?

It seems that would be money best spent for all kids involved vs. building an adolescent bath house of sorts.

Posted by: a_DC_denizen | October 14, 2008 8:22 AM | Report abuse

I'm with the majority here. A segregated school for gay kids sounds, at best, like a stopgap. At worst, it seems more like the victims are being hidden away, while the bullies remain free to harass students that they perceive as too different to be allowed to live in peace.

Posted by: newsahm | October 14, 2008 8:27 AM | Report abuse

put the gay kids togeather, one of them gets infected with aids, they all get aids...
hard to get aids if you are 1 in 100, but end up 1 to 1 and everyone gets it...

Posted by: DwightHCollins | October 14, 2008 8:32 AM | Report abuse

Can't believe all of us posting are so much in agreement...

A "school for gay kids" sounds like the first step towards "separate but equal" education. Sorry, but that's not a good idea.

Kids get tormented in middle school/high school for all kinds of reasons. Kids get beaten up for all kinds of reasons - being different in almost any way. (The wrong gender, the wrong race, too much of a "nerd", the wrong socio-economic class - name a reason, kids get harassed about it.) Sexual orientation is just one more reason. The proper response is to deal with the problem, not create some "separate but equal" school system to avoid it.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | October 14, 2008 8:43 AM | Report abuse

(1) Haven't we learned that "separate but equal" is inherently "unequal."

(2) Teach tolerance and acceptance instead of shipping your problem away.

Posted by: happydad3 | October 14, 2008 8:45 AM | Report abuse

I agree with the majority - this isn't the answer. The answer is having teachers and administrators stop the bullying and harrassment of everyone, not just gays.

Posted by: dennis5 | October 14, 2008 8:45 AM | Report abuse

How is it segregation when it's a) optional and b) not exclusive to gay students?

I wish all schools could be a supportive environment for all students, but since this obviously isn't the case, one that is "safe and welcoming for any student looking for another school option" is a good step.

Posted by: liliburlero | October 14, 2008 8:46 AM | Report abuse

put the gay kids togeather, one of them gets infected with aids, they all get aids...
hard to get aids if you are 1 in 100, but end up 1 to 1 and everyone gets it...

Posted by: DwightHCollins | October 14, 2008 8:32 AM | Report abuse
----

On top of your ignorant comment; your lack of proper spelling and grammar only further proves how much of an uneducated moron you are.

Posted by: thornwalker1 | October 14, 2008 8:51 AM | Report abuse

I can't imagine that their football team will be very good.

Posted by: wapo9 | October 14, 2008 8:56 AM | Report abuse

Great Idea - open a school for gay kids. Then a school for "nerds". Then a school for the kids who wear all black. And maybe a school for any other social misfit. Gay kids are not the only ones who get made fun of. Smart kids get picked on all the time and get beat up too. Separating them is not the answer!

Posted by: LBH219 | October 14, 2008 9:04 AM | Report abuse

moxie, why else do your kids go to private schools? I wonder what would happen if everyone abandoned public education. I spent most of my education in public schools and received a good education but more significantly, I worked with a wide variety of students. If everyone only attends school with a group of kids that are at least superficially similar, what is lost for the community at large?

Posted by: captiolhillmom | October 14, 2008 9:06 AM | Report abuse

liliburlero - two points in response to your post:

1 - it's "segregation" of one kind or another when the result is that you have an overwhelming number of kids with one characteristic (gay, or nerds, or Hispanic, or whatever) and almost none without that characteristic.

2 - if you can make a public school that's "safe and welcoming for any student looking for another school option" why don't you just make all schools safe and welcoming for any student, and solve the real problem?

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | October 14, 2008 9:14 AM | Report abuse

It's sad, but there ARE kids who are ugly and their mother dresses them funny. Whatcha gonna do? Punish the kids who point out the obvious?

The problem as I see it though, is that there are a growing number of kids afflicted so much by social anxieties that their coping skills prevent them from learning in the normal school environment. One of these ailmentss is actually called "school phobia". And yes, for those that don't mind wearing the label, I think an alternative form of education, such as home bound instruction or a special school that offers a protective atmosphere should be available to them.

And "gay" (whatever it means) has nothing to do with it.

There is this really tiny, tiny little girl in one of my daughter's classes. She gets so nervous around groups of people and when she talks, she sounds like she is about to break down and cry. There are kids like this that are so timid that they become physically ill in social environments, so for them, I think an alternative school to address their special needs could be a good thing.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | October 14, 2008 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Whacky, you make a good point, but the question is should the public school system be forced to offer "separate" schools for these kids? Is that really the solution?

capitolhillmom asked moxie why she sent her kids to private schools. In our case, we sent our son to a private high school because it was much smaller and could better suit his needs. The county public schools, while outstanding, were and are overcrowded. All of our daughters flourished in that environment, but our son seemed to disappear into the crowd. So we found a private school with 10-15 kids per class, and now he's flourishing. Sometimes that's just a better choice for a particular student.

(And before anybody asks, yes, I'm very familiar with FAPE and the other education laws and requirements. But I think if we had claimed that an "appropriate" public education for our son required the county to build schools with no more than 10-15 students per class we wouldn't have gotten very far. :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | October 14, 2008 9:26 AM | Report abuse

What a tremendous advance that we are actually talking about this issue? For too long many children (gay, straight, etc.) have endured violence and degradation in schools across the country -- without any possible redress. My experience causes me to suspect that gay students have had to bear the brunt of such cruelty. But segregation is not the answer. As racism could not be solved by such means, other forms of bigotry cannot either. Unfortunately, the long, hard road of educating the larger society is the only means for overcoming the toxic victimization that gay persons (and many other persons) endure.

Posted by: ScotDavids | October 14, 2008 9:34 AM | Report abuse

*sigh*

Why not simply remove the bullies? I know that most parents first gut-reaction is "Not my child!", but we're not stupid. We KNOW that our kids are not perfect little angels and that NO kid who is being bullied turns them in for only one incident.

Posted by: Skowronek | October 14, 2008 9:40 AM | Report abuse

"open a school for gay kids. Then a school for "nerds""

the school for nerds was built decades ago where I live. It's call the Thomas Jefferson School of Science and Technology.

We have a special school for the gifted, how about one for the kids with mental disabilities? or should we just kick them to the curb if they can't take the heat?

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | October 14, 2008 9:42 AM | Report abuse

I think it is an absolutely terrible idea. I don't understand how it's believed this will teach tolerance. It won't teach anything except perhaps that you should run from problems instead of facing them head on. Education, once again, is the answer. This is a particularly difficult one, though, because some parents who hold beliefs against people of alternative sexual orientation share their feelings with their children and even encourage the bullying.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | October 14, 2008 9:44 AM | Report abuse

"I can't imagine that their football team will be very good"


Yes, but I bet the school play would be fabulous!!!!

Posted by: londonlinda | October 14, 2008 9:45 AM | Report abuse

WhackyWeasel:

It's sad, but there ARE kids who are ugly and their mother dresses them funny. Whatcha gonna do? Punish the kids who point out the obvious?

Well, yes, as a matter of fact. Particularly in junior high and high school. By then they should have learned good manners.

I was poor and in an expensive school district. I watched people deliberately destroy their terribly over-priced clothes capriciously and then laugh it off with, "Daddy will buy me another pair!" Meanwhile, I was earning money the hard way to buy my own clothes at thrift stores, long before it was trendy.

I knew my clothes didn't "fit in", I didn't need anyone to point it out to me. They fit. I was clean. I hated being tormented by the trolls.

Posted by: Skowronek | October 14, 2008 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Whacky, Howard County, MD has no such "school for nerds" as TJ, but we do have three schools designated by the county as "Special Schools" (see http://www.hcpss.org/schools/schools_special.shtml) One of them, Cedar Lane, is for those kids with mental disabilities (among others). Guess different counties do things differently. :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | October 14, 2008 9:47 AM | Report abuse

And then what happens when those individuals have to "join" the rest of society upon graduation? Are there going to be gay universities also? Gay cities? Gay companies and workforces?

Sorry, life is tough. It is always tougher for the misunderstood and the "different". All I can say is that through education, understanding and working through our differences, we will hopefully become a more compassionate society. Life isn't always fair, but we can work towards a better tomorrow.

Posted by: dmrunique | October 14, 2008 9:48 AM | Report abuse

""Gay" schools. Why not "Black" schools...maybe "Jew" schools, and "Girls Only" schools too."


How many Jews have been killed in the last decade for being Jewish? There are black schools, have you ever been to NYC? And there are girls-only schools, and they usually do much better than co-ed.

I'm not sure if 'gay-friendly' schools will help, but I don't see the harm. Nobody said anything about 'gay-only' schools. Homophobia is rampant in adolescent males... I seem to remember middle school as being worse, even for a straight kid.

Posted by: fake1 | October 14, 2008 10:06 AM | Report abuse

I really think "gay" is a unique case, not just another case of different behavior, or harrasement because of it. "Gay" is a travesty. It is unnatural. It is against nature. It is not just "different." While all types of people must attend school, and in America, allowed equal freedom to be what they want to be, you cannot control behavior against that nor make normal that which is abnormal. Kids, and adults, who are "gay" may be tolerated in certain circles, but never accepted as normal. It is a deviant lifestyle, and goes against nature, and so can never be taught as "normal." America is headed down the primrose path in allowing "gay marriage" in several states. You cannot call right that which is wrong.

Posted by: bteal | October 14, 2008 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Skowronek, I'm with you there. I too moved into a richer district in the middle of my 8th grade year, and the first time I walked into my algebra class, somebody immediately pointed out that I was wearing a pair of Sears Toughskins. The students laughed their asses off about it.

So I laughed along with them. Why not?

I learn a very important lesson that day. For it's not the charm or wit that defines the character of a man, but the clothes he wears and the car he drives.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | October 14, 2008 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Personally, I think the hell of middle school is kind of a rite of passage. It is a horrible age to begin with and there's always going to be at least some kind of Lord of the Flies undercurrent. I don't know about the rest of you, but my experiences in middle school, wearing the wrong thing, having parents that weren't cool, not being able to knock someone down in dodge ball, not doing whatever the junior high celebrity du jour was doing that day -- all served to teach me valuable lessons about what was really important.

As parents, it is NOT our job to protect our children from any pain or stupid mistakes, but to give them the tools to handle whatever life throws at them.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | October 14, 2008 10:29 AM | Report abuse

ArmyBrat1, like I said, of course you want every school to be safe and welcoming to every student. But it's a lot easier to accomplish that at one school where that is central to the mission, than to suddenly change the culture of the whole system. That's not to say you wouldn't work on more broader change, but the long run doesn't help kids who are in school now.

Best is the enemy of good.

On the other hand, the kids most at risk--the ones who get no support at home-- are not likely to be able to attend such a school.

Posted by: liliburlero | October 14, 2008 10:32 AM | Report abuse

"Kids, and adults, who are "gay" may be tolerated in certain circles, but never accepted as normal. It is a deviant lifestyle, and goes against nature, and so can never be taught as "normal.""

It's stupidity like this that creates yet more violence against gay youth.

Fortunately your views are becoming less and less acceptable.

Posted by: HillMan | October 14, 2008 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Army Brat thanks for your response.

For a few years I was pulled out of public school and placed in a private school because of extreme overcrowding. I think I got a BETTER education in the overcrowded class. I really enjoyed doing my own thing and being left alone. i think my parents just had a knee-jerk reaction to the crazy teacher student ratio (like 35:1 in 4th grade) and pulled me out, even though I suspect I would have been one of those types of kids that would have been ok in an overcrowded classroom.

could be wrong though-- that was years ago and maybe what I valued then wasn't really beneficial to me in the long run. I'm sure my parents did what they thought was best-- sounds like you are doing what is best for your kids. Just from my perspective as a former private school kid, small classes do not automatically mean better education. Every kid is different.

Sure wish they were an easy test or something that could tell us definatively what is the best type of school for a specific child, but as it is we are far too often driven by our gut.

Good thing it has worked for your kids, ArmyBrat! hope I'll be sufficiently tuned into my kids when they are of age to make these choices.

Posted by: captiolhillmom | October 14, 2008 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Why do my kids go to private school? I'll try to be as concise as I can. Primarily it is because of the Montessori method in which I truly believe. Secondly, the class size is small. Finally, it is because respect for yourself and everyone is expected all day, every day. It is not a separate lesson plan, but something that is expected from the children in everything they do. We have families of all different colors (frankly my private school is more integrated than my public school), faiths and income levels but we all share a core set of values. The behavior that I see amongst the children in our neighborhood and in different activites, who attend public school is not what we want for our children. This is not to say that all public schools or public school children are this way, but as far as I can see, the public schools have too much on their plate to provide the kind of education that we want for our children. My two cents.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | October 14, 2008 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Our kids go to private school, and we look at it this way: When you apply to college, how do you select the school? We picked the best school we could afford. Why wouldn't we do this for our elementary school children? They should go to the best school we can afford. Of course there is argument over what "the best" is, and that is the beauty of debate. Everyone has to make the most educated and thoughtful choice for their children.

Posted by: MomTo2Kids | October 14, 2008 11:32 AM | Report abuse

""Gay" is a travesty. It is unnatural. It is against nature. It is not just "different.""

Actually, bteal, a little academic research will show that it is not unnatural, a fact backed by such organizations as the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Pediatric Association, among many others. Nor is it against nature, as instances of homosexuality among many, many species can be observed in nature.

I am a 21 year old gay man who graduated high school just 3.5 years ago. I stand with the majority of the people here and am opposed to this new high school. I agree that taking gay kids out of school will decrease exposure to homosexuality among heterosexual students and ultimately lower the level of tolerance. My other concern, however, is the affect gay-only schools would have on gay students. Part of being gay in high school is learning that the world is still not a totally safe and accepting place. Will sending gay kids to gay-only schools not instill a false sense of security in them that could be extremely dangerous when they graduate and go into the real world?

Posted by: smithnh | October 14, 2008 11:35 AM | Report abuse

"Do you think segregating students by sexual identity is the answer?"
Before opening this dialogue, it would have been helpful if you actually represented the intention of the school correctly. The proposed school will NOT segregate students by sexual identity. The assumption is that students of all sexual orientations would attend. "Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan said Wednesday he expects the Pride Campus will be 'majority straight.'" http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-ap-il-gayhighschool,0,776278.story The school would merely be more pro-active in providing a safe space for a population routinely targeted in other public schools. It would also probably have to include a dorm, since so many glbt teens are kicked out of their homes. I have not decided myself if I'm in favor of the school, but the discussion here is based on faulty assumptions.

Posted by: alg41 | October 14, 2008 11:35 AM | Report abuse

My kid is targeted at school because of the way she looks (due to a congenital condition). All schools should be safe places.

No one is optional.

People have a constitutionally protected right to religious beliefs such as that espoused by bteal, however distasteful that belief is to me and to others. That right is to believe as your religion teaches. It does not confer a right to treat others as less than human. All children have right to be in an environment where adults expect the students to treat others with respect. No one is optional. No one.

Posted by: janedoe5 | October 14, 2008 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Momto2kids, when I applied to college I decided on the one that would provide the best education for the least amount of money-- i.e. the one that would put the least strain on my parents and allow me to graduate without debt.

I abhor debt and needless expenses from a private school far more than I fear inadequate education from a public school. To your question, "why not pay for the very best education you can afford?", my grandparents would counter with, "why pay for something when you don't have to?"

My grandfather was just telling me that the attitude of demanding the very best of things rather than settling for something less expensive yet workable is the root cause of the financial trouble we face today. Do you think he is wrong?

Posted by: captiolhillmom | October 14, 2008 12:38 PM | Report abuse

The consensus is against separate schools. So be it. Why not try what my kids' elementary school did: assign 2 students to each other as "buddies" to help out with social issues - but make the pairs 1 gay and 1 straight. Also, do what someone above recommends: expel the bullies. Many / most kids today have gotten over the stupid prejudices of their parents. If the parents insist on perpetuating racist and bigoted stereotypes and prejudices, let their out-of-step children go somewhere else for their "education", rather than molly-coddle them at taxpayer expense at the social and psychological expense of the kids who have learned hot to get along in a society with all kinds of people.

Posted by: markinirvine | October 14, 2008 1:08 PM | Report abuse

My grandfather was just telling me that the attitude of demanding the very best of things rather than settling for something less expensive yet workable is the root cause of the financial trouble we face today. Do you think he is wrong?

Posted by: captiolhillmom | October 14, 2008 12:38 PM

He is not wrong. I just think there is more to it than that. I believe that people/entities that live outside of their means is the root cause of the financial trouble we face today. We can comfortably afford private school, saving for retirement, and having a large rainy day fund. We are very fortunate -- but we have also worked very hard and sacrificed quite a bit to get where we are.

Posted by: MomTo2Kids | October 14, 2008 1:22 PM | Report abuse

I don't like the idea.

I do second the notion of taking the kids who are CAUSING the problems out of the schools. We used to do that, years ago. Now kids know that that will never happen, they can act however they would like, and nothing ever happens. If we took these kids OUT of the schools (and put them in schools designed for those with 'issues' - i.e., can't get along with others) the public schools would be a much better place. I grew up in a very progressive area, and we had an 'alternative' high school for kids who couldn't deal with the high school life - partially because the school I went to was extremely competitive, it wasn't for everyone.
Before you say: oh, those were the rejects, most of THOSE kids went to college, too, and many of them went to the ivy league (me, I just went to a CSS).
I don't understand why we think that our schools should have a one way fits all approach, but I also don't think that segregating people by a certain characteristic is a good thing either. We do need to be tougher on kids, tho - and there need to be consequences for actions (altho, kids are not seeing that these days, in any event, with the govt behaving in the way they do).

In addition - we send our kids to public schools, no IT IS NOT FREE. Someone pays for it. Yes, if we moved, we could afford anything else - WE HAVE CHOSEN the cost of public schools (our neighborhood is quite expensive, because of the school). We like the idea of the public school - that our kids are exposed to everyone, as 'everyone' is there...so our kids are not only exposed to our small neighborhood where houses are ridiculous and people spend so much money and our kids will never have the clothes their friends have, or the vacations, or the cars...I could go on - but the public school will give them perspective that others don't have what they do. AND the schools are excellent, or everyone wouldn't be moving into my neighborhood...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | October 14, 2008 1:32 PM | Report abuse

"My grandfather was just telling me that the attitude of demanding the very best of things rather than settling for something less expensive yet workable is the root cause of the financial trouble we face today. Do you think he is wrong?

Posted by: captiolhillmom | October 14, 2008 12:38 PM"

He's partially wrong. What caused the current problems is an inability to clearly understand the amount of risk people were taking in order to get the desired reward. There's always a risk/reward equation, but when you don't understand one side of the equation or the other, you get unpredictable (usually bad) results.

Now, he's probably partially right in that a lot of people were trying for "reward" that far exceeded their abilities, needs, or anything else, and MAYBE if they'd understood the risk they were taking they'd have thought twice about whether they really "wanted" or "needed" that bigger house or luxury car or whatever.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | October 14, 2008 1:37 PM | Report abuse

OK, I actually sort of disagree with the majority opinion here. I grew up in NY and was well aware of Harvey Milk school.

Although I do agree that we need and should teach more tolerance in schools today, the fact remains that a great number of gay students would not make it to graduation day in tact (both physically, mentally, and spiritually) with out an extremely protective enviroment; like Harvey Milk school. The fact remains, these kids need a place where they can survive and thrive while society tries to catch up.

Overall I find it sad that this is the only way to protect them today. It might not be the case a decade or a generation later but unlike some people, I am willing to look at alternative short term solutions. Sort of like the argument of paying at risk kids for grades. Sure it is not ideal and it should not be the final solution. But I am not willing to risk a child committing suicide, being harrassed into a terrible emotional state, or being killed while we the adults try to teach our own children to be at least human.

Let's face it, kids are basically uncivilized and at their worst when adults are not around. Sad thing is that in a lot of circles, it is still PC to pick on people. Especially gay or over weight. Those seem to still be the socially accepted prejudices.

On another note, and please correct me if I am wrong, but HM does not force kids to go to that school. It is a choice of the student.

I think we need to look at the data coming from a school like HM and see if this has bred good results. Follow the kids into adulthood and interview them about their experience.

One note about the other argument going on, while I am a huge supporter of public education, I do recognize this is a choice for parents to send their child to a private school. We still live in America and allow them that right. It just saddens me to see a lot of the good kids leaving the public school to go to private schools. But frankly, I can't blame them. There are a lot of problems in the public school system.

Posted by: foamgnome | October 14, 2008 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Oh one more note, my main concern about a gay school (as opposed to other types of segregation), is that this is an extremely emotional time in a young person's life.

Some of those teens may be questioning their sexual identity and may not be quite certain that they are gay. I would not want them going to a gay school while they are still in the questioning state.

I know a lot of gay advocates will shoot me down saying they knew as soon as they could remember etc.... And I am sure some of them did. But when I was in HS it was cool to at least ponder the question of your sexuality.

Just a thought. Would love to hear some opposing thoughts.

Posted by: foamgnome | October 14, 2008 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Momto2kids, when I applied to college I decided on the one that would provide the best education for the least amount of money-- i.e. the one that would put the least strain on my parents and allow me to graduate without debt.

I abhor debt and needless expenses from a private school far more than I fear inadequate education from a public school. To your question, "why not pay for the very best education you can afford?", my grandparents would counter with, "why pay for something when you don't have to?"

My grandfather was just telling me that the attitude of demanding the very best of things rather than settling for something less expensive yet workable is the root cause of the financial trouble we face today. Do you think he is wrong?

Posted by: captiolhillmom | October 14, 2008 12:38 PM

Yes. He is wrong. The financial trouble we face today is caused by misplaced priorities and irresponsibility. There is no value in having the best foyer or the most valuable outdoor living space in the most impressive zip code. The ease with which "owners" (though they owned no equity) walked away from debts they'd promised to repay indicates the low value they ultimately placed on both their honor and those fabulous foyers and outdoor living spaces.

On the other hand, there are few things of higher value than a lifelong love of learning and an attitude of intellectual curiosity.

If you view, shop for, and select, primary and secondary education using the same evaluative tools and decision-making process as those you apply to the selection of a plunger at Target, then your priorities are misplaced indeed. Where a man's money is, so is his treasure. Your kids will understand a little bit about your values when they see that you drive one beat-up but paid-for car, take simple camping vacations, but paid for education that was appropriate to meet their needs and instill that love of learning.

Don't kid yourself, by the way, that you aren't "paying" for education when you pay more for a home, and pay higher property taxes to boot, in Fairfax or Montgomery Counties rather than have your kids attend less stellar schools in other counties in the region. There is no free ride.

Posted by: CindyLouHoo1 | October 14, 2008 2:05 PM | Report abuse

I just came back from DD's school after lunch and recess. It is her 7th birthday today.

Her school is multi ethnic and every child has their own wonderful story. The children play together. Some are fast and furious blowing off steam some play quietly looking for shade.

We are trying to teach DD that no matter where you were born, raised, or your sexual orientation all children are raised equal. She doesn't even know yet the women haven't always voted in this country.

Some children asked who I was. DH goes to recess far more often than I do I said I was DD's mommy and they smiled. It would have been the same for any child in the playground. They are taught not to trust strangers but I was accepted.

Posted by: shdd | October 14, 2008 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Capitolhill mom - while I agree with you in theory, I do think that it comes down to what is truly important to you. We are fortunate in that we are able to afford this type of education with little impact on our overall quality of life but there are a number of families who are making significant sacrifices to attend the school because it is that important to them. Everyone has their own priorities. There are many families who make sacrifices for one spouse to be at home becuase that is paramount to them. I agree with the poster that a lifelong love of learning is priceless and that is the primary reason we have chosen the Montessori for our children. If there was a public school that used the montessori method, we would most certainly consider it.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | October 14, 2008 2:30 PM | Report abuse

While I agree that it can be wrong to give kids a false feeling of safety by having a "gay-friendly" school, since life won't be like that when they get out, we should be aware that regular high schools are not really like "real life" either.

If the school were truly "gay friendly" - meaning that you do not need to be gay to attend, but want to be an ally, it could be a cool place. Working with teens that are a self-selected group of GLBT, questioning, and allies is an amazing experience; I've had the privilege of having such opportunities for several years now. While I would love to send my own kids to a school that was an extension of that idea, I think I would still choose to teach in a mainstream school, as I don't think there are enough teachers who demand tolerance out of their students. I had some real troublemakers in my classes, but they all knew that the one thing I would never permit was intolerant comments or rudeness to their classmates.

Let's face it - the bullies and jerks are that way partly because of their own insecurities. I found a few of them grew to feel safe enough in my classroom to share a risky thought or two - maybe if they all learned that they would also benefit from a safe environment, we would not need to be considering sending any kids to special schools.

Maybe it's not inevitable that the jerks will always be jerks. The real question is: how do we get teachers who are willing to make their stand against intolerance clear and how do we make sure they have administrators that support them? I was lucky enough to have one who backed our efforts all the way, but not every administrator is that enlightened.

Posted by: drmary | October 14, 2008 2:36 PM | Report abuse

drmary wrote:

Maybe it's not inevitable that the jerks will always be jerks. The real question is: how do we get teachers who are willing to make their stand against intolerance clear and how do we make sure they have administrators that support them?

Well, I do know that one time when my firstborn developed the habit of ditching school I went marching up to the school and sat down with the principal, vice-principal, truant officer, school psychologist and teacher and told them that they owned the kid. Sweat equity was a good thing. Any day that was a "day off" for the kids, but a workday for them was a workday for my child.

Mind you, this didn't involve hurting anyone else. Just the kid. But between the scut labour involved at the school during the in-service days, staying after school to perform various and sundry "step-and-fetch" duties, the lost hours were made up.

So while principals and other administrators set the policy, it's up to parents to recognize that our little angels are quite as capable of being a screw-up as we, their parents.

I will say that the child has wobbled about a little bit in the 5 years since that incident, but nothing worse than trying to stay home with a fake cold and not doing some homework (with the immediate consequence of either a failing grade for the homework, or a 10% reduction for every day that it was late).

Nurses and teachers--30% more work for 30% less money. Pity!

Posted by: Skowronek | October 14, 2008 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Certainly what is happening now is working so well, that there's no need to change it. (snark) Right? Is the status quo so important to you that you cannot think of another possibility? There's no reason it can't be tried. It has worked in San Francisco, so Chicago people want to try it there. There's no chance that it would work in DC - too many republicans who hate gayness.

Posted by: fink | October 14, 2008 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Moxiemom: the school district next to mine implements the montessori method, actually. Is that highly unusual? I'm not trying to be snarky, but is it that few or no other public schools use the method?

Posted by: atlmom1234 | October 14, 2008 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Atlmom - I don't know. I can only speak for my district wich has no public montessori schools. What I don't get is why the same discipline and expectations can't be in every school? The purported expectations of the school we are discussing should be the expectations of every school in this country, period.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | October 14, 2008 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Atlmom - I don't know. I can only speak for my district wich has no public montessori schools. What I don't get is why the same discipline and expectations can't be in every school? The purported expectations of the school we are discussing should be the expectations of every school in this country, period.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | October 14, 2008 4:22 PM

The reason is because it is not supported by all parents. Parents believe that their little angel is not the problem -- it is the teacher, the other students . . .anyone but their kid

Posted by: MomTo2Kids | October 14, 2008 4:31 PM | Report abuse

momto2kids: of course, attitudes have changed in this world (goodness knows, it was MY FAULT if something happened at school - and we instill that in our kids)...but seriously - why is the school so afraid? So what if the parents come running and think: oh, no, not MY kid? Don't we get to where we are because no one is willing to stand up and say: hey it IS your kid, you don't like it, too bad, but he/she can't stay in school anymore? Or something like that? Why are we so afraid of everything (okay, yeah, lawsuits, but seriously, really, are we that afraid?)?

In any event, what we get in the long run, is the parent of the student IN COLLEGE, who calls up the TA and then complains to the HEAD OF THE MATH DEPARTMENT about the fact that her son failed the class. I mean, seriously, shouldn't he have passed a test/quiz/handed in some homework during the semester?

Posted by: atlmom1234 | October 14, 2008 9:20 PM | Report abuse

Hey snowbucks there are all girls school.

Posted by: lauialamb | October 16, 2008 2:38 PM | Report abuse

fr WorkingMomX:

>...This is a particularly difficult one, though, because some parents who hold beliefs against people of alternative sexual orientation share their feelings with their children and even encourage the bullying....

SO true. Where I live there is a HUGE Slavic "Christian" population who seem to think THEY can make all the rules by illegally stalking a HS principal because he allowed the annual Day of Silence at his high school, etc., lying about GLBT's, and packing the student association board of a local community college with their little friends. Now the entire SA board is facing a recall, and I hope the recall goes through!

Posted by: Alex511 | October 20, 2008 3:32 PM | Report abuse

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