Over the last ten years, in addition to magnet schools that attract the top academic talent in the city, the Chicago Public School system has opened up many specialty high schools. There’s a public military academy in Bronzeville, and the Agricultural Sciences school in Mount Greenwood (for example). There are schools for the humanities and schools for science and technology.
The next school to open is what is now being called an anti-bullying school, though as this article notes, that was a change in title from its original intention: an all gay/lesbian/transgender, etc. and their allies school.
I have heard that the rate of bullying students like this is unbelievably high …. and we have all certainly read some of the stories where the bullying reached an extreme, including murder (the Lawrence King murder inside of a middle school in California made the cover of Newsweek: http://www.newsweek.com/id/147790). While I agree that there is a certain level of media alarm, as there always is, and not every bullied student ends up murdered, I won’t deny that students in this variety of categories are being bullied in larger numbers than other students.
So …. in Chicago, the solution is: give them their own school where the bullies will not be allowed. In the absence of bullies, the students will feel better and learn better. It sure sounds good.
But then you have to think about it: A student gets bullied for being gay. The principal and the dean sit them down, and suggest that, for your own good, you think about attending this alternative school.
I can’t help but think that more “enlightened” people were telling this same thing to African-Americans a decades ago when they wanted to enroll in predominantly white schools: go where your own kind is: it will be better.
Interestingly, being in Chicago, how long will it be before other persecuted minorities start asking for special schools ….. perhaps it would start with white kids wanting their own school (they are a minority in the CPS).
Further: this smacks of punishing the victims by removing the responsibility for defending students from the school administration. It seems to me that if a student is being victimized, the administration has a the obligation to protect that student, and not by shipping them away to another school to maintain the peace. As one person who noted on the articles talk page said “Shouldn’t the bullies be shipped to another school?”
Further: is this what young people are to learn about gays? When they get intimidated, they run away. If you don’t want gays in your school, bully them, until the school makes them go away to a special school. Students will never learn to accept gays because there will be none around ….. they will be in their special school.
I understand that something needs to be done about the bullying, but I don’t see this as a productive solution. Rather, it seems to be a slippery slope towards removing administrative responsibility while increasing segregation of a minority that is still looked down on from many groups in Chicago.