Early last spring, Pride School Atlanta announced plans to open its doors during summer 2015. The school, which has not yet opened because of difficulties securing a location, will be the first LGBT-oriented school to take roots in the southeast region of the country.
Pride School is currently accepting inquiries for the 2016 fall semester, providing a safe space for faculty and students, kindergarten through 12th grade, who identify with nontraditional sexual orientations or genders, although heterosexual and non-transgender individuals will be admitted as well.
For the parents of LGBT children, schools like Pride School are seen as safe havens for their families. Many of these students have endured years of being bullied for their sexual orientations or gender identities. Pride School hopes to alleviate some of these difficulties by creating a curriculum that is tailored to individual students and that centers on acceptance.
Although these types of schools seem like good ideas on the surface, there is cause for concern when American children begin to be separated from their peers because of their differences. It isn’t a question of whether or not being LGBT is moral; it’s an issue of diversity. Since when was isolation of a minority group deemed a good thing?
Think back to the days of segregation. Black Americans were forced into schools where they could only interact with educators and children that looked and thought like them. For years, they existed within this “separate but equal” system, until they reached their ends and fought tooth and nail to learn in environments where they would be regarded as equals to their white counterparts.
Sure, LGBT children would be attending these schools on their own volition, but the question still stands: is separating them because they’re different actually addressing the root cause of bullying?
Ninety percent of fourth through eighth graders have been victims of bullying, according to statistics from Do Something, a nonprofit that supports social change. Reports from DCentric, a race research group sponsored by American University in Washington D.C., show that 54 percent of Asian Americans between the ages of 12 and 18 suffer at the hands of bullies. Sixty percent of disabled students face bullying on a regular basis. These statistics show that bullying is not an experience unique to LGBT students. Students are regularly bullied for their physical appearances, intelligence, disabilities and race.
Placing children in schools where the majority of faculty and students are LGBT establishes an environment where diversity is no longer encouraged. Society would be encouraging individuals who are different to hide away for the comfort of the majority. Wouldn’t this just let the bullies win?
Instead of removing LGBT children from traditional school systems, existing schools should be required to educate their students on the importance of appreciating diversity, as well as implement strict punishment for bullies. Furthermore, LGBT students could be provided with support groups in these environments, allowing them to foster relationships with like-minded individuals, while allowing their presence to positively impact students who may not be familiar with nontraditional sexual orientations and genders.
Separating LGBT children could also be damaging for them. Because these schools begin accepting students at such a young age, these students may never be in a situation where they learn how to deal with individuals who are hurtful. Unfortunately, discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender will likely be a reality for them at some point in life. Realizing this earlier on might be more beneficial to their interpersonal skills than not experiencing any opposition until they are in college.
Fostering a community of support for LGBT children and teens in existing schools could certainly be beneficial, considering the social difficulties that can be experienced by this group. However, isolating these students by placing them in a special school hardly addresses the real issues, those of bullying.
The gift of unhindered education is one that should be extended to all children, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Hiding these children away in a special school does not serve them well