Let’s face it. The South doesn’t have the best track record with segregated schools. Now, before you start throwing out accusations about the negative connotations of the s-word and how they don’t necessarily apply in this case, let’s have a look at my good friend, Merriam-Webster. A definition of segregation, as presented by this dictionary, follows, “to separate or set apart from others or from the general mass.”
And a segregated school is just what organizers like Christian Zsilavetz plan to open in the fall of 2015 under the name Pride School Atlanta. PSA plans to provide a safe learning environment for LGBT families and students from Pre-K to 8th grade. However, the notion of a school specifically for a certain type of student makes me reminiscent of those “separate, but equal” days. Now, doesn’t that just leave a bad taste in your mouth?
Schools in the South segregated by race dates back to the 1900s where the education offered to black students versus white students was vastly different. The term “separate, but equal” was nothing but laughable when one looked at the schools for black students—decrepit buildings, hand-me-down books, and teachers with less-than-desirable training. But, this isn’t the only example of separate schools. For a long time, the practice of segregating schools by gender was a tactic used to get failing schools back on their feet. However, research by Rebecca S. Bigler and Margaret L. Signorella led to this conclusion on The Woman’s Stats Project Blog: “We do see that gender-segregated schools do help with problems such as: dropout rates, classroom sizes, and test scores. However, we could argue that this is simply due to external factors and co-ed programs could fix the problems given the same amount of budgeting and resources.” With these examples, what do segregated schools have to offer? Let’s look at what Pride School Atlanta promises to its future students.
PSA’s mission statement states that the school “does not tolerate discrimination or harassment based on race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, disability, affectional preference, sexual orientation, marital or relationship status, gender identity or gender expression.” Aww, what a wonderful thought, right?
Wrong. The essential problem lies in this very mission statement. Pride School Atlanta doesn’t tolerate discrimination or harassment based on these distinctions. Underlining the fact that this particular school is a discrimination-free zone should set off wild, police-like sirens in the moral hemisphere of our minds, ultimately begging the question: should any school tolerate discrimination or harassment?
Good for PSA for putting it in their mission statement, but it should be a given that schools everywhere should protect and respect the young students they are meant to mold into future progressive, critical thinking citizens.
I understand the appeal of all-accepting schools like Pride School Atlanta. Any parent would want to leap at the chance to protect their child from harm—especially in a place where they are supposed to be nurtured. However, taking LGBT students out of schools and placing them in an isolated hub will do little to nothing to solve the problem. This separation will only perpetuate the closed-mindedness of bullies and force the Pride School students to ask the painful question: “Aren’t I good enough to be in school with the rest of my peers?”
Yes. Yes, you are. It isn’t the LGBT youth that need to find another solution; give them a break, they’ve got enough to deal with. It’s the schools that need to get with the program. After all, it doesn’t say “with liberty and justice for straight kids only” on the Constitution.