Monday, October 6, 2008

GSA Monday Topic: All-Gay High School or All-Bully High School - What's Safer?

Welcome back to GSA Mondays!

Take a look at this Rainbow GLBTQ Pride flag

Now imagine it flying over YOUR High School!

Okay, this week's topic comes from this article in the Chicago Tribune. Basically, the idea is that people in Chicago are exploring setting up a "Social Justice High School" which would have a majority of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning students. By being in the majority, their argument goes, the school would be a much "safer" environment for the GLBTQ Teens.

To better understand where they're coming from, take a look at these statistics, from the website of the Gay High School in New York City:

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender youth often feel invisible in their schools. Their invisibility is typically reinforced by heterosexism in their environment, which causes these young people to feel invisible, unsupported and isolated. The following statistics vividly illustrate some of the reasons why The Hetrick-Martin Institute and The Harvey Milk School exist:

Sexual Self-Concept, Orientation and Identity:

  • During adolescence, young people form their sexual identity.+
  • Developing a sexual self-concept is a key developmental task of adolescence. +

LGBTQ Youth in School

  • 41.7% of LGBTQ youth do not feel safe in their school. +
  • 28% of gay teens drop out of school annually, three times the national average. +
  • 69% of LGBTQ youth reported experiencing some form of harassment or violence. +
  • 46% of LGBTQ youth reported verbal harassment, 36.4% reported sexual harassment, 12.1% reported physical harassment, 6.1% reported physical assault. +
  • 86.7% of LGBTQ youth reported sometimes or frequently hearing homophobic remarks. +
  • 36.6% of LGBTQ youth reported hearing homophobic remarks from faculty or school staff +


  • LGBTQ youth are 3 times more likely to attempt suicide than other youth.*
  • 40% of LGBTQ youth attempted suicide compared to their heterosexual peers. +

Student Attitudes about LGBTQ issues

  • 40% of high school students say that they are prejudiced against homosexuals. +

Teaching about Sexual Orientation in Schools

  • In one study of LGBTQ adolescents, half of the students said that homosexuality had been discussed in their classes. 50% of the females and 37% of the males said it was handled negatively. +

‡Statements indicated with (*) derive from the National Mental Health Association website:, and with (+) from the Sexual Information and Education Council of the United States:

Pretty bleak, huh?

Non-surprisingly, conservative groups are against having All-Gay High Schools because they don't want to "condone" homosexuality. (nice, aren't they?)

But, here's what I thought was really fascinating: The opposition of Gay activists!

"If we're going to set up a separate school, let's put the bullies in the school and not our gay kids," said Rick Garcia, public policy director of Equality Illinois, the state's largest gay rights group. "Kids should be able to go to school in a safe environment wherever they are."

All the Bullies in their own school??? WOW - That's a new idea!

What do YOU think?

Would it be best to go to an All-Gay (or at least 50%) Gay High School?


Would it be best to go to your OWN High School, but have all the bullies bussed to a different school?


Would it be best to change the culture at ALL the High Schools, so they're all safe?

And okay, if it's this last one, how do we actually make that happen? Is it possible?

Can you and your GSA brainstorm 5 concrete steps you can take to make your OWN school safer?

Add your ideas to the "comments" section, and in a few weeks I'll pull together a post with all the ideas, from here and from other sources!

Have a great week!




Queers United said...

im in college now but if i was out i would have def gone to an all gay hs.

Rita said...

Fascinating idea. I was immediately of two minds as I read this post. On the one hand, I never like the idea of separating out (or in?) an entire school based on any demographic. I instinctively worry about kids in the school feeling too segregated, or cloistered, and about an unwanted side effect of kids from surrounding schools getting even less exposure to _[fill in demographic]_. For this reason, I appreciate the spirit of the all-bully-school suggestion: Why should our kids go elsewhere? Make the bullies go!

But I shudder to think what that'd be like, and, in any case, think that can't be serious. Defining bullying/bullies would get complicated fast, since bullying is an issue plenty of people worry about. Even if you could do it, you'd be creating a safe haven for intolerance in the same way this school is currently meant to support gay high schoolers.

On the other hand, I did go to a high school that had a higher percentage of Asians than what most schools in this country get, and have often (in retrospect) appreciated how much that's shaped my self-image for the positive, and how much *less* angst I had to struggle against, growing up. If you can see plenty of people "like you" in positions of social leadership, especially in your formative years, that's good, isn't it?

In my case, the makeup of the school wasn't planned. But the school board member in this article says the "all-gay" high school could easily have less than half its actual student body be gay, so the result could be similar. It all depends on whether we are talking about a school that's 100% gay . . . or 30% . . .

(This analogy is more of a stretch: Once, in college, I walked into a public library and was shocked to see . . . little kids! I realized college--for all its diversity in other ways--had created a community that revolved almost entirely around people my own age. But . . . that made it really fun . . . )

I will be following this project with interest. Thanks for sharing, Lee!