Chicago has become the third city in the US to consider having a specific LGBTA friendly high school, after New York’s Harvey Milk High School and Milwaukee’s Alliance School.  The school would be open to all students, but cater specifically to the needs of LGBT students and allies.  As the Chicago Board of education considers this school to be added to the Chicago Public Schools in 2010, Mayor Daley has expressed his hesitation in such a school, citing concern over segregating students:

“You have to look at whether or not you isolate and segregate children. A holistic approach has always been to have children of all different backgrounds in schools. When you start isolating children and you say, ‘Only 50 percent here, 40 percent here’ — same thing we went through with the disabled — then you want to do that when they’re adults.”

Something that caught my eye in the Sun Times articleon this issue (even though it’s no longer available in the article) is that they initially talked about how baffling it was that a mayor, so well known for his support of LGBT rights (helping fund Center on Halsted, supporting the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame, supporting the Cook County domestic partner registry, appointing a liaison to LGBT issues) could take this kind of stance. 

Really??  I just don’t understand why someone would find Mayor Daley to be unsupportive of LGBT rights just because he is wary of this project because of the segregation it would cause.  Oh yeah, did I mention that Rick Garcia of Equality Illinois completely agrees with him?  From the Sun Times article:

“There’s no doubt there’s violence and bullying of gay kids and something has to be done, but segregating them is not the answer,” said Garcia. “It doesn’t stop bullying at other schools. And if a kid is different and the object of scorn or bullying, instead of addressing it, the teacher might say, ‘Send him to homo high.’

“Instead of a school for gay kids, maybe we need a school for the bullies. Gay kids are not the problem. Bullies and teachers and administrators who don’t stop the bullying are the problem,” he said.

I completely agree with Rick.  Taking LGBT students out of a bullying situation will make them temporarily safer, but it does nothing to help change the stereotypes and the prejudice that the bully has.  So, once the students leave high school, they’ll be faced with the same situation.  Think of the millions of dollars it would cost to build a new school.  Wouldn’t that money be much better spent creating tolerance programs, anti-bully initiatives, harsher punishments for bullies, or after-school programs? 

I know the stats about the higher drop out rates and lower average grades of LGBT students.  I fear for these students and the intolerance they may face.  Something absolutely needs to be done.  But segregating the students?  I just don’t think that’s the answer.