Tuesday, December 16, 2008


David Brody of Pat Robertson's CBN news has this up right now:

Obama’s Pick for Education Secretary Pushed For Gay High School

Obama's new pick for Education secretary is Arne Duncan, head of Chicago Public Schools. He's been pushing for Chicago to start their first gay high school. Not kidding.

Obama is going to get a lot of flack over this pick from social conservative groups and it wouldn't surprise me if Republican Senators raise a fuss about this during his confirmation hearing. Mark my words. Read below from The Chicago Tribune:

The Chicago Public Schools' first high school designed for gay, lesbian and transgender teens is among 20 new schools recommended to the school board today by CPS Chief Arne Duncan....

Supporters have said the Pride Campus would help students find a safe school environment because studies have shown that gay youth 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....

That story, from early October, is here. And if Brody's bringing it up, it certainly seems like something that would be of interest to right-wingers.

But the quoted article isn't the last word on the subject. The proposal for the school was altered and then put on hold -- just after the election. This is from the November 25 Chicago Journal:

Rev. Wilfredo De Jesus is one of most powerful evangelical ministers in Chicago....

But Chicago Public Schools spokesman Malon Edwards said it wasn't clout that won the reverend a private audience with schools' CEO Arne Duncan in mid-October, where the reverend and 10 of his colleagues expressed their opposition to a proposal to open an LGBT-friendly high school.

"It's not unusual for Arne to sit down and talk to members of the general public," Edwards said.

But some gay rights activists, who thought the proposal was on track for approval prior to Duncan's meeting with DeJesus, are raising eyebrows....

Here's what happened:

Designers of a plan to create the city's first gay-friendly high school pulled the plug on a watered-down version of the plan Tuesday but vowed to resurrect the idea next year....

After [the meeting with Reverend De Jesus], the design team rewrote the first 18 pages of its original 58-page proposal. They changed the name of the school from the High School for Social Justice Pride Campus to the Social Justice Solidarity High School. They removed language saying the school would address the "needs of the underserved population of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning youth and their Allies (LGBTQA)'' in favor of language that said the school would address "city-wide concerns over violence, bullying and harassment.''

Other references to gays were stripped from the description of the school's social studies and fine arts curriculum, but kept as part of its literature component. The revised plan also kept a planned "GLBTQ Studies" elective.

Andy Thayer, co-founder of the Gay Liberation Network, said most speakers at public meetings supported the original proposal....

"It seems pretty apparent to me that some private pressure has been put on the design team that has led to this current juncture,'' he said. "It's a complete end run around the public participation process."

I can't help wondering if Duncan knew this was in the works and decided to get himself out from under it in anticipation of Senate confirmation hearings.


I can see the need for this kind of school. Even at the highly acclaimed public junior/senior school I attended in Boston I saw one gay kid hounded mercilessly until he was forced to leave. Another classmate, I was told a few years after I graduated, committed suicide because his deeply religious parents were intolerant of his homosexuality.

Here in New York, I know there are a lot of gay kids from socially conservative families who are flat-out unwelcome at home; some of them become homeless and drift into prostitution and drugs, and HIV takes its toll. So I don't have any problem whatsoever with the existence of Harvey Milk High. You don't want there to be gay schools? Then it has to be socially unacceptable to make a gay kid a pariah, in an ordinary school and especially in the home. Gay schools are an attempt to solve a problem that intolerant straight people create.

But yeah (as Jason Linkins notes at the Huffington Post) this could be a problem for Duncan -- even if he backed away from the school proposal in order to minimize the risk of precisely this kind of controversy.

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