Apparently the educational safe space will be the ‘first of its kind’
Carrying on 2015’s rising trend of educational safe spaces, Georgia is opening its first ever high school for LGBT youth.
The Pride School Atlanta will apparently be aimed at children aged between five to 18, and will offer support to students who have been bullied over their sexual orientation, or confused about their gender identity. According to the Associated Press, the concept was thought up by Christian Zsilavetz – a trans teacher who wanted to help stop children from feeling “different”.
“Kids have full permission to be themselves – as well as educators,” he told the agency. “Where there's no wondering, 'Is this teacher going to be a person for me to be myself with?' This is a place where they can just open up and be the best person they can be.”
Set to open in 2016, the Pride School has already sparked national debate about the best scholastic approach for LGBT youth. Given recent controversies in some American schools – from transgender toilet issues to hate group protests – it may help offer a more ‘normal’ and accepting high school experience for struggling students. That said, it could also work the other way – encouraging more division, and less understanding for people outside the LGBT experience.
“I think right now what a lot of students face is separate-but-equal education in the public schools... This is a place where they can just open up and be the best person they can be” – Christian Zsilavetz
“There's a number of kids who come from the South ... migrating to places like New York and other cities because they feel like it's more tolerant for them,” explained Ross Murray, GLAAD’s programs director, global and U.S. South. “I think having a school like this in Atlanta... it means it's much more regionally connected. If a student does need a place where they can be safe from bullying, from peers who want to harass or harm them, they're not going to have to travel tons of distance to do that.”
Recent findings in the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network's 2013 National School Climate Survey show that 56 per cent of LGBT students will face issues at school because of their sexuality, with 71 per cent being exposed to homophobic language. In southern US states like Georgia, harassment figures like this rocket up to 90 per cent.
“When (LGBT) kids can see you, when they know that they can come to you, they're less likely to die (or be suicidal), for one,” summarised Zsilavetz. “They're less likely to get pregnant, when they don't really want to get pregnant. They're less likely to get into drugs and alcohol and into depression.”
“I think right now what a lot of students face is separate-but-equal education in the public schools,” he added. “Because 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.”