The Harvey Milk High School was founded by the Hetrick-Martin Institute (HMI) and the New York City Department of Education as a refuge for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered teenagers, and questioning youth. The aim of this novel idea in education is to create a positive learning environment for homosexual and other-gendered students, removing them from the hazing and discrimination many of them face at other public schools. Unfortunately, though the intentions of the City and the Institute are noble, the Harvey Milk School will, over the long run, damage heterosexual and homosexual relations. Instead of exposing homosexuality to all public-school students in a manner that promotes greater respect, the School is sequestering away a portion of this group, thereby creating the impression that homosexuals are different from other students. Only by teaching respect for diversity can the City hope to curb homophobia.
In the Midst of a Budget Crisis
The timing of the school's founding could not have been worse. The City is in the midst of a multi-billion dollar budget crisis, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg is taking drastic actions to save New York from fiscal collapse: staging mass layoffs of city officials, closing fire houses, and cutting the education budget. Though the $2.3 million that the Department of Education spent on the Harvey Milk School is just a drop in the bucket of the city's funds, it is nevertheless a sizable amount during this economic catastrophe. Mr. Bloomberg is committing an egregious error by increasing spending for a risky and controversial project when the City is nearly bankrupt. Having a fully-staffed fire department should be a higher priority to the City than building a new school for students that already belong to existing ones.
The Possibility of Resentment
Nothing stokes the fires of hatred more than envy. Germans envious of the Jews after World War I because of their perceived wealth and power were driven to great lengths to destroy them. Though of an obviously lesser degree, the Harvey Milk School will serve to cause poor, straight students and their families to feel jealousy towards their homosexual ex-classmates. After all, the students enrolled at the School will be blessed with small class sizes, new laptop computers, and new cafeterias. The City will be hard-pressed to explain to parents living in the Projects why their gay neighbor can attend this beautiful new school while their straight son or daughter is stuck in a decrepit building lacking computers and having to deal with classes with 30 or more other students. No one could blame parents in that situation for feeling upset and jealous towards the students attending this shining new facility. And that jealousy can easily turn into resentment and anger towards homosexuals; parents will begin to see homosexuals as a group of individuals protected by the government at their expense. Strides in tolerance can not be made under such a negative atmosphere, which is what the School will inevitably bring in.
What About a Geek School? Or a Black School?
Having a school specifically cater to homosexual and other-gendered students would be the same as having a school only open to geeks; the rationale being that geeks also can be teased and beat up at school. If the City wished to protect homosexuals from occasional harassment, then when does such protection stop? Why not have schools for obese children, geeks, or blacks? The City would be branded as racist and face litigation if it founded a school solely for black children; why does this same standard fail to apply to a homosexual school? Separating all of these groups from one another is not only impossible, it also defeats the purpose of the public school system. Students must be put together in order to ensure that they grow up tolerant of others; separating different groups breeds racism and ignorance.
But the Statistics!
When critics of the Harvey Milk School come forward, they are showered with these grim statistics compiled by the Sexual Information and Education Council of the United States:
- 41.7% of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) students do not feel safe in their current school.
- 69% of LGBTQ teenagers have experienced some form of harassment or violence against them.
- 86.7% of LGBTQ youth have reported that they sometimes or frequently hear homophobic remarks.
- 40% of high school students say they are prejudiced against homosexuals.
The conclusion, according to the Institute
, is that homosexuals need a school that will provide a safe haven
for them, away from the violence and ridicule they can face at school and at home. While a school like this one may be helpful and even necessary for those homosexuals thrown out of their homes
and living on the streets, a majority of other-gendered students will not benefit from the Harvey Milk High School. First, the school will only initially accept 100 students, leaving the overwhelming majority
of gays still in their old environments (again, only the people with the most acute
problems should be allowed access to a slot). Second, the vast majority of other-gendered students do not need to be sequestered away; they need to be active members of their school
s and communities. To combat homophobia, the unstated mission of the school, heterosexual
students should be exposed to gay and other-gendered students. Only when they see this group
as a collection of individual
s will homophobia be defeated. This School will not promote that noble goal, only prolong the struggle.