Chicago considers gay high school

Filed under: Teens, Health & Safety: Babies, In The News, Day Care & Education

colored pencilsMany cities have alternative schools where kids who might otherwise drop out are given the opportunity to stay in school and graduate. These at-risk kids are often the victims of neglect or poverty and may have already found themselves on the wrong side of the law. But, according to a 2003 Chicago Public School District study, there is another group of at-risk kids who might benefit from an alternative school of their own: gay, lesbian and transgender teenagers.

Studies show that gay high school students are three times more likely to miss school because they feel unsafe. Because the stigma and fear of violence puts these kids at greater risk of dropping out altogether, the Chicago Public School District has proposed a school just for them. The School for Social Justice Pride would have a maximum enrollment of 600 students who would be admitted on a lottery basis. The school would have the same staffing and oversight as other schools, but would include lessons about sexual identity in literature and history as well as offering counseling.

"We want to create great new options for communities that have been traditionally underserved," said schools chief Arne Duncan. "If you look at national studies, you see gay and lesbian students with high dropout rates. . . . I think there is a niche there we need to fill."

While the idea seems to have plenty of support, it is not going over well with some gay rights advocates. They want to see schools focus on fostering acceptance, not segregation.

The Board of Education is scheduled to vote on the matter on October 22nd and if passed, Chicago's first gay high school would open in 2009.

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