Should Obama Take Stand On Chicago’s Gay School?

As Barack Obama jets around the nation shoring up support for his presidential campaign, lawmakers in his home base of Chicago are preparing to vote on the erection of a “gay” high school.

Though he’s not voting on the proposal, a local Fox News channel began to wonder where the Senator stands on the matter.

And the politician’s support, they say, has been anything but resounding…

The Chicago school board is set to vote next week on a first-of-its-kind high school geared toward gay students — but while the issue is unfolding in Barack Obama’s backyard, the Illinois senator has yet to take a clear position on it.

The publicly funded school, called the Social Justice High School-Pride Campus, would serve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students. It would be open to all students, but officials say it would be particularly suited to those facing harassment of bullying because of their orientation.

Asked repeatedly about the development, the Obama campaign eventually issued a one-sentence statement, and referred to a bill Obama introduced last year supporting “positive behavior” instruction in schools.

“Senator Obama believes we must work to ensure that all schools foster an environment free of violence, harassment and bullying, and he has introduced legislation to keep our schools safe,” spokesman Ben LaBolt said.

It’s not surprising that Obama would keep some distance between himself and the school – even gay activists aren’t convinced the school’s such a good idea. Rick Garcia, who heads Equality Illinois’ political department, expressed his hesitation: “I just don’t like the idea of segregation. Every kid should be safe in every school. If we’re going to set up a separate school, why don’t we put the bullies in those schools?” We’re also torn on this issue.

Obviously we want gay guppies to come of age in a welcoming, nurturing environment, but “separate but equal” has always rubbed us the wrong way. What are your thoughts, attractive and opinionated readers?

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  • Jaroslaw

    1. Obama doesn’t need to give his opinion on everything that happens on planet earth.

    2. Although I understand the frustrations of the “activists” re: segregation, but Gay High Schools worked other places. I don’t pretend to keep up with every news item but I don’t recall segregation being mentioned in the debate at the other cities.

  • L

    1) it’s a local issue; I agree with Jaroslaw
    2) gay H.S. does not merely separate the gay from the straight. It separates the out from the closeted (or since we’re talking about adolescents, the not yet out). In any event, the not-yet-gays will be left even more isolated. Also, school adminstrators will just say “see, we took care of that issue – change schools if you want, we don’t need to work on the environment in all schools.”

    And, yes, segregation has been part of the debate in other cities.

  • kevin

    Um, the “first” gay high school. We’ve had the Harvey Milk School here in NYC for like, maybe 15 years……

  • marco hussein channing

    I understand why Obama might have mixed feelings about a gay high school because of segregation.

    So, I think he would actually need to spend time at the Harvey Milk School in NYC to get a better perspective on the benefits of a school like this.

  • adam

    Thank you MEN-SAR. I’m totally voting McCain now that you left that inspiring message.

  • fredo777

    hee hee

    You said “erection”.

  • ChicagoJimmy

    How do kids get in? Would they have to out themselves to parents, administrators, and other students? I would have loved to go to a school like this when I was 14, but I don’t think I would have had the courage to come out to anyone to ask for a transfer.

    I’m bothered a little by the segregation aspect as well, but if high school is supposed to be a time of learning, growth, and the beginnings of self-expression how is this different than a high school focusing on performing arts, peace, ROTC, pre-med, or anything else?


    “Obama doesn’t need to give his opinion on everything that happens on planet earth.”

    Much to the surprise of you drones, Obama is not running to be the president of Planet Earth.
    Obama is running for the office of the Presidency of the United States of America, so hell yes! he has to give his opinion on all that happens to it’s citizens, especially concerning a group of Americans that have virtually no protections under the law in some parts of the Nation he wants to be leader of.

    Not that it should matter to us since he thinks we are second class American citizens.

  • kevin

    these schools are essentially an admission by the community at large that it has failed these children. It’s not about segregation, it’s about protection.

  • james ii

    I agree with both chicago jimmy and kevin. i also agree with rick garcia. basically, gay kids should not feel threatened at ANY high school, so instead of shuttling the gay kids (or at least those who in their early teens realize they are gay) off to a special school, the CPS is almost shirking their responsibility to gay kids all over the city. it would be great if gay kids would feel welcomed at any school, but it ain’t gonna happen, at least in chicago, where kids’ first concern is to get home alive, and where bullies aren’t as big a concern as gangbangers, dope dealers and kids with guns.

    on the one hand, at first, it seems like a great idea but the more you look at it it seems like the school system is throwing in the towel. and i don’t think it is something that obama has to weigh in on, because as a U.S. Senator, he has nothing to do with a municipal school system’s policies, etc. It’s like the moronic republicans who comment at our local newspapers when there is a murder and say stuff like, ‘why isn’t obama doing anything about this?’

  • fredo777

    “Not that it should matter to us since he thinks we are second class American citizens.”

    Says the person voting for the woman who will just barely “tolerate” us +, if anything, would be more prone to deny more of our rights than grant or remain neutral about them.

  • The Milkman

    It doesn’t matter what Obama thinks about that school. The only opinions that matter are those of the community it serves, and the taxpayers who are footing the bill. As long as the school maintains whatever federal standards are established for all publicly-funded schools, it doesn’t matter what the White House thinks.

  • emb

    Thank you, Milkman! As others have said here as well, it’s really not necessary for the President (or a candidate for President) to have an opinion on every local school board campaign or bond issue. If I still lived in Chicago, I’d probably vote for the new school (although in the happy land in my head segregation is a Bad Thing and resources should be put behind making “standard” schools just as safe for gay and lesbian kids), but I don’t really care what Obama thinks about it.

    The notion that a President somehow has to have an opinion on every issue facing every American is a fairly novel one of recent vintage, that comes along with the “I’d like to have a beer with him so I’ll vote for him” school of Presidential preference.

    Oh, and Obama/Biden 08, please.

  • Smokey Martini

    We had a similar issue here in Toronto, where the Toronto District School Board was contemplating a black-focused school. As mentioned above, it was intended for the students who are failing the standard education system in hopes that a more black-focused education (i.e. that which complements the traditional system with black history and critical race relations) will reinstate an interest in learning and civility. While there was much talk about undoing the segregation Martin Luther King Jr. had fought for for so many years down south, it was built with much enthusiasm and, well, we haven’t heard much of it since…

    That said, Toronto has had a GLBT-focused school known as the Triangle Program, held at the Oasis Alternative Secondary School of Canada. Much like the school above, it is intended for students who are having trouble completing their high school education because of the bullying in their home schools. As a bonus, it also enriches the standard material with issues in sexual diversity and GLBT history.

    While a great program for students facing hardships in their path to higher learning, I *REALLY* feel that these schools are band-aid solutions to a bigger problem of racism, homophobia and systemic marginalization. I think *ALL* students would benefit from an enriched program in sexual diversity studies or critical race relations which, given the (difficult yet full) co-operation of parents, will make for a more civil, tolerant and yes, even accepting, generation of students.

    Rather than isolate the students who are the object of racism / sexism / homophobia / bullying, these focused schools would be better geared for the perpetrators of the attacks rather than the victims themselves. Then again, the standard education system should teach more diversity-focused streams of, say, history or social studies as a parallel move to include everyone in the mix and, in turn, to naturalize these differences.

    Of course, some religious and social conservatives wouldn’t like that — and certainly don’t like that now because it gives ‘special privileges’ to minorities — which is why such a system has yet to be put in place.

    A big sigh for that.

  • andy_d

    Why “enrich” the curriculum only at the Triangle Program school? IMO it would be far better to do the same for EVERY student in the Toronto School System (and all of the U.S. School Systems for that matter.

    By not covering issues in sexual diversity and GLBT history to ALL students is like denying whites the rich cultural heritages of other races.

  • Smokey Martini

    Exactly! EVERYONE needs – no, SHOULD! – know this stuff!

  • fredo777

    Oh, God.

    More petty + ridiculous smears. Enough is enough already. You’d do much better to convince us why John McCain is suited to the presidency (unless, of course, we’ve actually seen the third presidential debate).

    Talk about someone whom I don’t want answering a “3 AM Call”. McCain was downright snotty.

  • blake


    It’s interesting how you skewed this question to asking what Obama should do. Why didn’t you ask the same question of McCain?

    This is ridiculous. This is city high school. There are thousands of high schools around the country, why should the presidential candidate get involved with local maters like this when not required?

    Again, why didn’t you ask if McCain should get involved with this? Could it be that you just wanted to stir the pot and get the site’s racist losers involved in a fight? Do you get paid by the click A nice controversy gets everyone clicking, reading, and writing?

    this is just a form of race-baiting.

  • M Shane

    I’m not too sure why “gay activists” would object to something which would give gay kids a healthy start in life. I can certainly see why conservatives like Sullivan or Bawer would like to carry on the pretense that we can integrate with hetrosexuals at he risk of harming more gay children.

    In any case, I think the issue can best be resolved by people truely devoted to the ideal of a gay community. Why would we expect Obama to know when we don’t?

  • M Shane

    p.s. The American school system is failing everyone. From test scores , we rate so low academically that we may as well not have schools at all. Every kid is different, but the fact that we often don’t even teach anything about sexuallity leaves people at least very confused if they are gay and don’t know that they are acceptable persons. in my H.S girls got pregnant and didn’t even know how it happened. If they go the direction of Charter schools, a gay kid would not do well in a fundamentLIST SCHOOL.

  • Michael J

    The main thing Obama needs to do right now is get elected.

  • Tori

    I used to teach middle school. Kids were incredibly mean to each other, and not many teachers even tried to do anything about it. The gay kids are the first targets. It’s going to take a long time for the cultures of our schools to change, and I say in the meantime, protect the kids who have to deal with crappy schools now. Opposing a gay school is basically condemning them to more years of bullying – and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

Comments are closed.