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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    LGBTQ headed back to the closet?

    Homosexuality in the U.S. is more complex than Katy Perry’s catchy song “”I Kissed a Girl”” suggests. The controversy over same-sex marriage is only the tip of the iceberg. It seems that sexual orientation is now an influential factor in driving public education policy.

    A plan is in the works for creating a Chicago high school that would welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and sexually questioning (LGBTQ) students. Chicago isn’t the only city to ponder a mostly-LGBTQ school, either. Harvey Milk High School in New York City was founded in 1985 as a school for LGBTQ students, and became a fully-accredited public school in 2002.

    However, schools like these only hinder the acceptance and tolerance of LGBTQ students by isolating them from their heterosexual peers. High schools should expose students to diversity, not shelter them from it.

    According to the Chicago school planners, the new campus would be open to all students, but would especially seek to foster a violence-free atmosphere for students who are often targeted for their sexual identities. That sounds nice, but it also sounds like any old high school. Every high school should seek to promote a safe atmosphere for all students, regardless of sexual orientation, race, creed, or any other identifying characteristic. “”Kids should be able to go to school in a safe environment wherever they are,”” explains Rick Garcia, public policy director of Equality Illinois, the state’s largest gay rights group.

    Proponents of the plan for the Social Justice High School-Pride Campus contend that LGBTQ students face unique problems and obstacles in schools, many due to the bullying and harassment they face. The Chicago Tribune reports that LGBTQ students “”are at a greater risk of dropping out of school and abusing drugs and alcohol, and are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide.”” Thus officials hope that a mostly-LGBTQ school will curb these dangerous inclinations. But what happens after high school when these students enter the real world?

    Isolating the bullies’ targets is a horribly ineffective solution. In order to lead successful and productive lives, all students must learn to interact with their peers who may have different appearances, beliefs and sexual orientations. Such blatant segregation, however, cultivates a false sense of security and fails to ready students for the real world that they will undoubtedly encounter in life outside the classroom. The real issue is the lack of tolerance many students exhibit in high schools across the country.

    Instead of tackling the real issue of harassment, school administrators seem to be acting in a manner to reduce their legal liability and save money in a nation of ever-dwindling school budgets. It would surely cost more money to eliminate bullying and harassment from every classroom across the country, so instead, officials simply prop up a few schools for the bullied and pat themselves on the back. But all they have accomplished is a reversion to the separate but equal policies of the last century.

    “”If we’re going to set up a separate school, let’s put the bullies in the school and not our gay kids,”” says Rick Garcia. He has a valid point. After all, the bullies are the ones breaking the rules, not the LGBTQ students. Students shouldn’t be removed from their schools because officials fail to do their most basic of tasks – maintaining a safe campus.

    As an alternative to the seclusion LGBTQ students, school administrators and teachers could enforce a zero-tolerance policy for hate, violence and harassment. By doing so, all schools will become safe havens of learning for all students, not just a select few.

    LGBTQ students shouldn’t have to attend a separate school in order to learn in a safe environment. High school should serve as a valuable four years of academic learning and cultural exposure for every student, regardless of where he or she falls on the sexual orientation continuum. Removing diversity from the classroom hampers these goals and sets us all back.

    LGBTQ students are present in every high school across the country, and they deserve to attend their schools without fear of their peers. They deserve officials who will uphold this most basic of rights despite the cost and battle. They don’t deserve to be swept back into a closet because it is convenient.

    – Justin Huggins is a senior majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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