A Gay High School In Chicago?

200 people met last night in Chicago to discuss a possible LGBT high school named, The Social Justice High School—Pride Campus. The school would offer college-prep classes. “Gay, lesbian and transgender students are often overlooked in our district.” Chad Weiden, who would be the school’s Principal, said.

Not everyone is excited about the idea. “My fear is that the rest of the system will be let off the hook. The notion that the Pride Campus is a silver bullet to set aside all needs of [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] youth is mistaken.” Andy Thayer, co-founder of the Gay Liberation Network said.

In NYC, we’ve had success with the 2002 public accreditation of the GLBT Harvey Milk School – with a 95% graduation rate.

Mr. Thayer is lucky that he isn’t currently attending one of Chicago’s tougher schools. Pride Campus would serve GLBT youth who have been victims of harsh intolerance and whose parents don’t have the money to send them to a liberal private school. Schools like Harvey Milk and Campus Pride are a great way to give kids a safe education now, while school officials continue to teach tolerance to the broader student population. The Pride Campus won’t be the “silver bullet” for ALL the needs of GLBT youth, but it will certainly be the silver bullet for those lucky enough to attend who have been the victims of abuse and bullying.

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  • ChicagoJimmy

    I’m not sure if this feels more like segregation or school choice. Given the chance, I certainly would have attended such a school, but I also would have gone for one of the other many charter schools we have here in Chicago if there were no GLBT school.

  • todd

    I want to work there. Fuck the str8s and their homophobic schools.

  • Rob


  • Berdie

    Truth…this is probably not that good of an idea. I am not surprised by the high graduation rates when in the cocoon – but I would be more curious to see how many of these kids fare when they are not in a pre-approved isolation chamber from the rest of the world.

  • Mike in MO

    this will be a good idea until the inevitable first scandal. While every school on the planet has scandals, the first time a teacher bangs a student, everyone will fly off the handle screaming, “SEE!?!?! I TOLD YOU THOSE HOMOS CAN’T BE TRUSTED!!!!” People won’t care or understand that scandals happen everywhere…

    Also, while well intentioned, the net result will be segregation. I understand the counterpoint, but am never comfortable with separating classes or groups.

  • EDBroker

    I have a better idea. Create homophobe high schools. Gays with gay friendly students just might make a majority. Homophobe High required class—Bigots are Buggers— Google that and see what I mean!

  • Brian Miller

    I’m definitely opposed to a segregated system. Creating a “gays only” school to deal with homophobia is no different than creating a “blacks only” school to deal with racism. The root problem should be addressed directly and forcefully at the source, not through segregation.


    I’m really torn on this one. I mean it’s great for GLBT kids to have a safe place were they can go through all the experiences that their hetero counterparts go through without having to hide their feelings and interests but I also feel like Brian Miller that creating a “gays only” does tantamount to nothing more than segregation. The problem is that we adult GLBT’s have no real say or do in this issue. I mean how many of us actually have kids let alone teenagers going to HS. Besides joining and pleading with school boards to allow groups that promote Gay-Hetero alliances there’s little more we can actually do.

  • Berdie

    Brian – I couldn’t agree more. The truth is that the only place where homophobia is erased will be in the halls of this school. What message does that send to gay teens? What message does it send to the straight teens who no longer have to “deal” with their gay counterparts. I believe the intentions are good on this one…but the repercussions are not.

  • Steve

    This looks like a short term protection, in exchange for long-term loss.

    Integration forces people to deal with real people who are not just like themselves, rather than learning to hate anonymous stereotypes. If you take the gay students out of other schools, the straight students in those other schools will not have any gay friends. As a result of not having any gay friends, they will not be forced to question their prejudices.

    And then there is the problem of “recruiting”. How do you recruit gay students to go to that magnet school, without being accused of “recruiting” youth into the “gay lifestyle”?

    What do you do with the youth who really don’t know to whom they are attracted? Do you force them to make a choice, and then stick with it? Or do you let them explore and learn about themselves?

  • Phoenix (The Fat Pasty One, not the Pale one)

    I thought LGBT schools were for students who are LGBT and the children of people who’re LGBT. Wouldn’t the student body then be a mixture of LGBT and str8? I thought they were more like the gay/straight student alliance? Gays and their str8 supporters/family.

  • Andy Thayer

    For what it’s worth, I warmly endorsed the Pride Campus, both in my public comments and to the Trib reporter, but he was stuck on getting an “either or” position, and ignored the first part of my comments.

    I grew up in a rural public high school in the late 1970s (graduating class of about 135 kids, whoopie!), totally isolated, was gay-baited almost daily and beaten a few times for being gay, so lay off the lecturing about going to school in difficult circumstances. I prefaced my public comment with that and said that for many kids, things probably haven’t changed all that much since when I was in school, and that’s why the Pride campus would be a GOOD thing.

    That much said, our Mayor Daley has a despicable record of giving token gestures to various minorities to buy off opposition, while leaving fundamental problems intact for the vast majority of people (disproportionately working class) in those groups. The maximum enrollment for the Pride campus is listed as 600 youth in a school system comprising over 400,000 students.

    Yes, tons of LGBT youth need an immediate safe space, and the Pride campus could provide a portion of that, so let’s establish the Pride campus, but not lose sight of the far greater need.

    Right now, the only thing approaching a system-wide pro-gay initiative in Chicago is a short pro-gay film whose showing is optional in the schools, and is probably never shown in the schools where it’s needed most.

    The Pride campus would be an important initiative for those lucky enough to get into it, but as was raised by an audience member at last night’s meeting, and not answered by the panelists, would LGBT youth be able to choose to attend it, or would they need to get permission from perhaps homophobic parents? Would youth be forced to out themselves to their parents in order to attend?

    What we need is not just the absence of violence and harassment in the whole system (something we’re lightyears from achieving), but truly LGBT-AFFIRMATIVE education system-wide. Done right, the Pride campus could become a bridgehead to transforming the rest of the system, but only if its personnel are prepared to pick a fight with the Chicago Public School bureaucracy, and the head bureaucrat himself, Mayor Daley. Unfortunately, patronage is alive and well in Chicago, far more than any other major city, so the chances of such a fight being led by the eventual leaders of the Pride campus are like that of a snowball in hell. Such a battle will have to come from the students, staff and community activists.

  • jerry pritikin

    Back in the early 1950’s, I quit high school because I had “those” tendencies and being or knowing someone “queer”(that’s what we were called) was TABOO. I left my hometown of Chicago and moved to San Francisco in 1960… to be myself. I was involved in early gay politics and sports, and played softball in the first gay organized league in the country in the early 70’s. I knew Harvey Milk, when he became he first openly gay person to be elected to public office in the country… I lived there for nearly 25 years before coming back to Chicago. Thankfully, Chicago had become a gay friendly city. Now, over 400,00 take part in the annual Gay Pride Parade, In ’06, The city co-hosted the Gay games, both the Cubs and Sox have Gay Days at their ballparks, The are gay events taking place at the Museums, including several each year at the Chicago Historical Museum . We have an elected openly gay alderman, and recently the Gay Community Center opened, and provides programs for gay youth (and seniors) but for me, the greatest improvement that I noticed came a few years ago. I attended a stage play at the Walter Payton Prep High School, and in the Play Bill, one of the student actors listed in his “Bio” that he belonged to the Gay/Straight Alliance. Because not all Chicago high schools have G/S alliances… I believe there is still a need for a gay school. It’s good to know, that gay kids no longer have to quit school, or agy adults have to move from their hometown of Chicago to be themselves! Sometimes, progress is slow, but it is moving in the right direction…

  • Graham

    I do think this is a great idea. I am a gay mathematics teacher in a catholic school in Australia. I cannot be openly gay which I find hard every day. If Adelaide had a gay high school I would enjoy teaching there as I wouldn’t have to worry about being asked every day if I’m gay; I could focus on the real reason why I’m a teacher…

  • kris

    gays school..what will they want next, we all have been bullied for some reason or another, but do we get special treatment NO

  • 1derland

    special treatment??? do people that dress or act the way you do get killed every day for just that? ask yourself that.

  • jerry riles

    @Brian Miller: brian can you email me back. I’d to see if you’re available for an interview regarding the Pride School. Thanks!!!!!

    Jerry Riles

  • jerry riles


    if you get thihs email please contact me at [email protected]. I’d like to interview you regarding this Pride School vote. Thanks!!!!!


  • Tyler

    I say let them have it. May as well have segregation again. If it works. I dont think the integrated system is good. Too many ideas and attitudes abound. Ripe for trouble.
    I refused to attend HS at all after 10th gr. I think the education system sucks totally.

  • Sunyata A.

    It’s true about segregation. Fact of the matter is that there are marginalized people in our communities, people of color, queer people, trans people, Muslims, girls, disabled youths, formerly incarcerated youths. Is constructing a separate school so that they feel safe the answer? Or is challenging oppression in the general public and equipping young people with the tools to challenge these oppressions the answer. Schools were “integrated” in the US supposedly and look where that has gotten us–nowhere but bussing programs that don’t work and great schools in rich neighborhoods and schools with no resources in poor neighborhoods. We also have to be realistic–are queer youth of color from poor neighborhoods going to have a chance to go to these schools? Probably not. I think a program like this would be great if implemented throughout the schools All school where All students could have access.

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