A private school opening in Atlanta says it is going to be a first-of-its-kind school targeted specifically at gay, bisexual and transgender teenagers.
Pride School Atlanta says it hopes to appeal to students who feel bullied or isolated for their sexuality at regular schools. The school’s mission statement is “to provide LGBTQQIAA students, families and educators a safe, fun and rigorous learning environment free of homophobia and transphobia.” “LGBTQQIAA,” in this case, is shorthand for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, and allied.
“This is a place where they (students) can just open up and be the best person they can be,” school founder Christian Zsilavetz told The Associated Press. Zsilavetz, who has worked as a teacher for over 20 years, identifies as a transgender man and says despite the school’s orientation it will welcome any who want to attend.
“Pride School Atlanta admits students of any race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, disability, affectional preference, sexual orientation, marital or relationship status, gender identity or gender expression to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school,” the school-to-be says on its website.
Besides being intended for gay and transgender students, the school also hopes to create a welcoming environment for transgender teachers who may encounter hostility in a public school environment.
The school plans to initially operate out of a Unitarian Universalist church in the city, and will charge $13,000 in annual tuition. The school says it will use “democratic decision-making processes” to help determine curricula, and says there will be no mandatory homework or tests.
The school isn’t the first one to put a focus on gay students. New York City actually has a public high school, Harvey Milk High School, that is designed for LGBT students. Pride School, though, will be K-12, and it is the first school of its kind built in the conservative American South.
Bullying of gay and transgender youth is a major concern for gay rights groups, who claim a majority of LGBT children face frequent and severe bullying in school that hinders their academic and social development, and may lead to suicide.
While Zsilavetz said Georgia schools have made progress in recent years, she said enough problems remain that Pride School will still have a purpose.
“I think right now what a lot of [LGBT] students face is separate but equal education in the public schools,” Zsilavetz told the AP. “If you can’t go to the bathroom all day and you can’t use the locker room and you’re bullied in the classroom and the teachers aren’t standing up for you, you don’t have a full seat at the table.”
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