ATLANTA — Georgia is reportedly going to be the first state in the South to start a school that is solely for gay, lesbian and transsexual students.
This first-of-its-kind private school in the Southeast is designed to attract lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth and teachers is being established in Atlanta for students who feel bullied in traditional school settings.
According to the AJC, Pride School Atlanta is a k-12 institution designed to be an alternative for LGBT students, though the school is open to any student who believes they’re not getting the support they need for “being different,” says Pride School founder Christian Zsilavetz.
“Kids have full permission to be themselves — as well as educators. Where there’s no wondering, ‘Is this teacher going to be a person for me to be myself with?’” said Zsilavetz, who is transgender and a veteran teacher with nearly 25 years of experience, according to truthrevolt.com
“This is a place where they (students) can just open up and be the best person they can be.”
The Pride School will initially operate out of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta church and is expected to open by September 2016.
Tuition will be around $13,000, though Zsilavetz says financial assistance is available for students who need it.
It is part of a small but growing group of schools popping up nationally geared toward educating LGBT youth, who feel disenfranchised from public education. Pride School would be the first of its kind in the Southeast and, according to gay rights advocates, a significant development for the LGBT movement.
“There’s a number of kids who come from the South … migrating to places like New York and other cities because they feel like it’s more tolerant for them,” said Ross Murray, programs director, global and U.S. South, for gay rights group GLAAD, told the newspaper.
“They should be able to stay in their homes, their communities. I think having a school like this in Atlanta … it means it’s much more regionally connected. If a student does need a place where they can be safe from bullying, from peers who want to harass or harm them, they’re not going to have to travel tons of distance to do that.”
The school will be modeled after the Harvey Milk school in New York City and other education centers across the country designed for, but not limited to, LGBT youth.
Nearly 9 in 10 LGBT students report experiencing harassment within the last school year, according to GLAAD, and three in 10 report missing a class because they felt unsafe, according to gay rights group Georgia Equality.
Georgia Equality and others successfully lobbied the state legislature for such a school. And, after the bill was signed into law in 2010, the group investigated school district policies in Georgia to see which districts had LGBT-specific bullying-prevention policies. It found fewer than 30 percent did.
Some districts have already implemented tougher rules against bullying. Cobb County was one of the first in Georgia to implement an anti-bullying, no-harassment policy that included sexual orientation and gender identity.