Despite editorial, gay high school is a must

By Gus Bode

Editor’s note:The Daily Egyptian is reprinting the following column that originally ran on Tuesday, Aug. 26. That version contained errors that occurred during the layout and editing process. The Daily Egyptian regrets the error.

Patrick Dilley, Ph. D.

Assistant Professor of Higher Education


I take issue with the DE’s Aug. 25 editorial concerning the inappropriateness of a high school for non-heterosexual students.

The issue is not as simple as the editorial presented. The Harvey Milk School in New York City is an established alternative to negative scholastic experiences for non-heterosexual youth and a cost effective preventative for the NYC school district.

The school is not new; it was established in 1984 as an alternative school for students who were at risk for dropping out due to harassment and assault in “regular” high schools.

This year is the first year the Harvey Milk School moved beyond two rooms, to become a fully accredited public high school. The school plans on enrolling around 100 students, which is roughly one out of every 11,000 students in the NYC school system.

Some people might feel that such a school is a waste of money or a misguided educational reform; they are wrong.

Harassment is a real problem for many non-heterosexual students. In a 2001 survey, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network documented that 83.2 percent of non-heterosexual students reported being verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation; 65.4 percent reported being sexually harassed (that figure for girls is 74.2 percent); 41.9 percent reported being physically harassed (pushed or shoved); and 21.1 percent reported being physically assaulted (punched, kicked, injured with a weapon) because of their sexual orientation. That is two out of every 10 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) youth being physically harmed because of who they are.

Certainly, not all gay students have such experiences, but the climates in our schools too often foster discrimination that leads to physical manifestations. But school districts are learning, after costly court cases, that they must provide safe educational spaces for non-heterosexual students.


A Little Rock, Ark., school district had to pay $25,000 to a student in July for allowing harassment to go unchecked against him. Last year, a Nevada school district had to pay $451,000. The reality is this:if schools allow harassment and discrimination of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students, the costs will be very high – both in money and in human experience.

The DE opined that non-heterosexual students need to learn that the world “is tough, harsh and many times unaccepting and forgiving.” That is a lesson LGBT students have already learned, the hard way; they do not need further reinforcement. Moreover, I believe one of the prime aims of education should be to ameliorate, if not outright eliminate, such harshness for all students.

The DE also implied that the non-heterosexual students should stay to help teach the straight students tolerance and diversity. This is what theorist Maia Ettinger refers to as the “Pocahontas Paradigm,” making the non-majority responsible for the education and enlightenment of the majority.

Why should these 100 students be responsible for teaching 11,000 other students this, at the risk of their own education and safety? The majority should be required to learn these lessons – as well as why not to bash and batter others – but not at the expense of those most vulnerable to abuse.

These views do not necessarily reflect those of the