Because Segregation is Always the Best Solution

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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?

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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?”

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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.

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One thought on “Because Segregation is Always the Best Solution

  1. Hiya- just read your post. May I ask if your opinion of our organization has changed? By the way, that nondiscrimination statement is taken almost directly from a University handbook and is standard operating procedure for any school. Unfortunately, policy doesn’t protect all, regardless of the reason. That said, while we are clearly openly affirming of LGBTQQIAA youth, educators and families, unlike most other schools, especially across the south, we are also affirming of youth who have no semblance of LGBTQ aspect to their family. I agree with you- I think it is almost laughable that people think it’s a big deal that we are openly affirming and are seeking to create a small, personalized environment where youth can be themselves and lose the target on their backs. Our first student was bullied since 3rd grade, through exclusion, then words, then violence. The following have reached out to us from around the country because too many schools are not equipped to handle large-scale bullying, so they’ve sought outside solutions, including leaving, therapy, and support groups: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, ally, youth of lgbt parents, LGBTQQIAA educators, students with anxiety, depression, long periods of bullying experienced, not getting their academic needs met in other settings, and students who at age 5 -10 are already treated so horribly by their peers and school staff that their parents are leaving the school already or trying hard to do so, One young lady was bullied to the point of a suicide attempt, and she wants to come to school with us. So yes, it may seem like segregation to you, but what you are forgetting is that we are giving families a GREAT OPTION for schooling where they don’t have to wonder who is going to throw rocks at their kid at school today or call them re#$rd, fat, faggot, dyke, lezzie, tranny, freak, ni-, sp&c, j$w, terrorist— all words heard at just about every public school and many private schools every day many times per day. I also ask you- how many out and proud straight , cisgender teachers with straight, cisgender kids do you know? How many out and proud LGBT educators do you know? Would you allow your kids to be taught by a trans person? A genderfluid person who does not quite present as male or female but a bit of both? Can you name 10 gay kids t your school? Ever see two boys hold hands or kiss at your school and not get beat up or harassed? Two female teachers openly in a relationship with each other around students, parents, and staff, and in coaching situations?
    We have so far to go, and I for one will not sit back and watch LGBT youth die at a 3x higher rate than non-LGBT youth just because others think we should just keep trying to fix things in hopes that it will be better for our kids before they are done at a school. By the way, we DO go into schools, government institutions, Universtities, religious organizations, community organizations, national organizations, school org’s, social media, major media and festivals to educate others about LGBTQQIAA diversity, inclusion, needs for youth and families, and best practices for clients, vendors, employees and the greater good in creating a thriving environment.

    I appreciate your thought in sharing our story and reflecting on it. I hope you will decide to check out our website http://www.prideschoolatlanta.org with an open mind, Please listen to the WABE clip and check out #yourtruth Zsilavetz” on youtube- and let me know what you think after seeing all that. I wish you the best, regardless.

    Christian Zsilavetz
    Co-Founder and Director, Pride School Atlanta
    Please look us up if you are ever in Atlanta, and I mean that sincerely
    http://news.wabe.org/post/closer-look-biking-atlanta-pride-school-and-more

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