Thursday, August 06, 2009

Gay-friendly online high school believed to be first of its kind

This from
The Maplewood-based program has
applications from students across the country
and faculty from around the world
Brooklyn Suchy was in sixth grade when she wore her Gay Straight Alliance shirt for all to see: "GSA, like it or not, I am what I am."

It was at a restaurant in Newport where her shirt drew the ire of a group of girls. They called her names. They shoved her. And then they locked her in the restaurant's bathroom.

"Others don't accept people who want to be who they want to be," said Brooklyn, now a ninth-grader at Crosswinds East Metro Arts & Science School. The 15-year-old Landfall girl considers herself bisexual.

Those were the kinds of stories that prompted one local educator to begin an online high school catering to students like Brooklyn. Named the GLBTQ Online High School, it is based in Maplewood and believed to be the first of its kind. (GLBTQ represents gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning.)

Other online schools exist, as do bricks-and-mortar schools that serve gay students. But the Minnesota program is the first to combine the two features, according to the International Association for K-12 Online Learning.

It is the brainchild of David Glick, the first online learning coordinator at the Minnesota Department of Education.

He has received applications from students across the country and from faculty around the world.
"We may not bring people closer physically — but we will in every other way," Glick said. "We want to make them feel more confident about who they are."

The online nature of the school allows it to reach young people wherever they have Internet access — especially in rural areas, whose smaller populations makes a physical version of his school impossible, Glick said.

It also removes gay students from potentially hostile school environments and places them in what he touts as a "safe and welcoming educational community." Instead of facing bullies every day, students would be learning with other students who understand their concerns.

But some fear this arrangement would further alienate teenagers already at risk...

The curriculum will differ from that of traditional schools, he said, in that it will be more "GLBTQ-friendly." That involves abolishing negative messages and highlighting gay, bisexual and transgender people in history.

Teachers will interact with pupils and provide instruction through videos, chats, graphics and other multimedia, as well as occasional phone calls. Some portions of a course will occur in real time, but for the most part, students work at their own pace, year-round.

While gay, bisexual and transgender high school students are the target audience; people of any age and sexual orientation can enroll.

"There's no other school we can look to as a model," Glick said. "People ask us, what's the research behind this? We are the research."


$5,900 - Cost of one year's tuition, in dollars

$520 - Cost per course, in dollars

50 - Minimum enrollment for school to launch

24 - Student applications to date

100 - Staff applications to date


Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what school districts in Kentucky have written sexual orientation into their non-discrimination clauses?

Anonymous said...

Always a silence when it comes to gay issues.

I'd say the moderator as well as the majority of readers are afraid to discuss the fact that there are gay students, gay parents, gay teachers, and gay principals in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Pretending these gay educators and students don't exist will only keep the door open to further harassment. And lawsuits....

Richard Day said...

Uh oh. Did I just get called out.

Let me say it this way: The only way to really serve all of the public's children is to meet the legitimate needs of each and every child - for a high quality education, to be valued, to be safe, to be respected...

Each and every.

It is not the public school's job to screen out any children for the dust bin of ignorance. They should all be appreciated, protected and taught the likely consequences of choices they might make in life.

If we were unwilling to discuss such topics at KSN&C I wouldn't have posted the news item...and chances are, you wouldn't have been aware the school existed.

This way we both benefit, so thanks for the comment.

As for the policy question, let me check on that.

Richard Day said...

I want to say Fayette County had minimal discussions on this in the past but didn't move forward. I had one conversation with Jennifer Crossen on the issue when I was on the FCPS Equity Council and I got the inmpression most fairness leaders thought a focus on anti-bullying provisions was most needed.

A source at KDE is not aware of any districts that have non-discrimination clauses, but they don’t collect that kind of data, so it’s possible that it MIGHT have been done somewhere.

HB 91, the anti-bullyng bill, did not specify sexual orientation – it did amend KRS 525.070 Section 4 (1) (f) to give some nebulous protection:

(1) A person is guilty of harassment when with intent to intimidate, harass, annoy, or alarm another person he or she:
(f) Being enrolled as a student in a local school district, and while on school premises, on school-sponsored transportation, or at a school-sponsored event:
1. Damages or commits a theft of the property of another student;
2. Substantially disrupts the operation of the school; or
3. Creates a hostile environment by means of any gestures, written communications, oral statements, or physical acts that a reasonable person under the circumstances should know would cause another student to suffer fear of physical harm, intimidation, humiliation, or embarrassment.

In 2008, Gov. Beshear signed an executive order that bars state officials from making hiring or firing decisions based on sexual preference or gender identity.

Anonymous said...

Did you just say screen for ignorance? Are you suggesting that gay people are ignorant? You also suggest that it is a choice, since you said they should be taught the consequences of choices. Hmm... Interesting and also very demeaning.

Richard Day said...

Of course not. Read it again.

Anonymous said...

I did read it again, and suffice to say, it did come across that way since the issue was educating all children, each and everyone, in reference to possible gay children. After which, you made your comment that "it is not the public school's job to screen out any children for the dust bin of ignorance. They should all be appreciated, protected and taught the likely consequences of choices they might make in life."

However, since you say that was not your intent and you seem a man of your word, then I humbly apologize.

Richard Day said...

Of course it's also completely possible that I didn't write my response very well.

Let make another attempt to explain what was on my mind.

One historical problem in school is the way some teachers (and back in the day, many) judge children - and then based on that judgment erect barriers for children that make it harder for them to receive a high quality education. Poor kids automatically tracked to the slow group - black kids to detention - special ed kids to the basement - Suzy Q to the front row - "different" kids get picked on - diffrerent cultures get disrespected.... You know how it goes.

I believe schools are doing a much better job of accepting and educating each and every child, but that may just be my hope. It certainly depends on where you are. I know there are still barriers for some.

I should have been more sensitive to the word "choice," since I am aware of the arguments among conservatives in the psychological commuunity, but I was actually thinking about something else. (I'm certainly no expert but, for the record, I suspect that human sexuality is not a choice but a natural reaction. I also tend to think of it as a continuum, not an either/or.)

What was on my mind, however, was a recent conversation we've been having at work about students and Facebook. We don't see it as our job to police student's Facebook pages. But it is very much our job to warn students of the possible consequences of posting certain pictures, or perhaps even one's sexuality, on Facebok when it's time to look for a job. If one is seeking a job in a large city, that is not likely to be a barrier to employment. But if one is applying in small town Kentucky, it could very well be. It's a matter of students making informed decisions. Gay students make choices, straight students make choices, indeed, all students make choices.

Anonymous said...

I interviewed once in Fayette County and it was apparent the district had a "Don't ask, don't tell attitude." I checked the website and found nothing about gay and lesbian issues, and I noticed there was no gay/lesbian/trans-gendered association for teachers in Fayette County. I never felt the district was hostile to gays and lesbian issues, but I think ignoring it is unwise. Seems that Richard Day, by his own admission, did not do too much to further training in the area when he was on thw Diversity Council, but most eduvators feel uncomfortable with it.

Those os us in Louisville are surprised that Fayette County is not more progressive when it comes to sexual orienntation since the county is home to Ernesto Scorsone and Jim Gray.

Apparently FCPS still offers no training on gay/lesbian issues, but I was told by my supervisor that Stu Silberman did tell the prncipal at Henry Clay High School that a Gay/Lesbian club at the school would be allowed, although the principal was not keen on it.

As most insiders know, the last round of high-profile resignations at the F.C. Board of Education was tainted by rumors that certain people who resigned were being singled out for being gay. My friends told me rumnors were rampant, and the District did nothing too silence them.

There is clearly a lot to be learned about gay/lesbian. transgendered people in the
Lexington schools.

Anonymous said...

Why should one be afraid to post one's sexuality? That's part of the "Don't Ask; Don't Tell" mentality, Richard! Times are changing. The train left the station, and I think you are not on the train...

Posting one's sexuality on MySpace or Facebook is perfectly fine, in my view; posting sexually explicit pictures is always inappropriate.

On the side, I even had a professor of philosophy at UK begin her class by telling us she was gay. Did I need to know that? No, but she felt it needed to be said and I respect her decision to tell us. She feared no retaliation --- unlike public school children and teachers who might do the same thing.

And what students are you talking about here? Students who might be looking for a job as a teacher or a principal?

I shake my head when many well-meaning administrators encourage their gay colleagues or students to be quiet on that issue. You worked in Lexington long enough to know who the gay teachers and administrators are, and while I think you are no homophobe, I do think you're in the mindset that it's okay to be gay provided you don't tell people you are.

One of the most disturbing things about the latest round of resignations at Central Office in Fayette County was the subtext that sexual orientation might have played a role in certain people being forced out. Straight colleagues seldom have to worry about sexual orienatation and job security.

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine just called from Ashland, kENTUCKY.

On the Boyd County Public Schools website, deep within the online district handbook, you will find a sentEnce or two that CLEARLY STATES discrimination on based on sexual orientation is forbidden in the Ashland, Ky school district.

This has to be related to the lawsuit filed by the ACLU several years ago.

When you get to the site, click "Board of Education" to bring up the policy manual. It's found in chapter 9. Then click 09.42811 AP.1 "Notice to Individuals....."

Richard Day said...

Good comments.

True, I deserve zero credit for moving the issue. Perhaps it should have been, but as a straight man I didn't see it as "my issue." I certainly did not risk taking leadership on an issues that I was not in a position to fully understand and which only affected others. I made my one phone call and not sensing interest in any particular action, went away quitely.

The "rumor" issue is more troubling, as is typically the case with rumors. The way I heard it from one FCPS gay and one FCPS lesbian source is that they may have been partners and admitted to the trouble with the interview questions. There were also rumblings about bothersome emails which KSN&C did not investigate.
The truth may lie somewhere else completely.

Don't ask; don't tell? Yes. Perhaps that is as good a way to express the prevailing attitude as any. I always got the sense that district officials, before 2004, were hoping the topic didn't come up.

I'm happy enough to get on the train, if someone will show me where it is. No anti-discriminatory statement? No equity Council issue being monitored? A vague HB 91? Just where is this train?

I do appreciate that no student should be afraid to be who they are. But in my family, when one of the kids declared himself to be gay, our wish was that he would find a place and a circle of friends who would be as supportive and healthy for him to be around as his family is. We just wanted him to be OK...and much better off than another family member who died of AIDS in the 80's. We never imagined that he could find that environment just anywhere and advised that he should calculate his choices with his eyes open, which he did, and which seems to have produced a satisfactory result in a committed relationship.

Maybe that's not the right approach. But I usually think that if it comes from love, it can't be too far wrong.

...and, I'm talking college age here.

Faith is another issue many gay Christians have to grapple with. Owing to suspect Biblical scholarship, far too many churches ahve turned thier backs on the GLBT community. In September, the Woodland Christian Church will be discussing Gay ordination.

Anonymous said...

You're right: Rumors are never good, Richard.

The main trouble at Central Office stemmed from an email exchange between the middle school director and another principal. (I'll forgo naming names.)

Their sexuality is none of my business and is totally irrelevant here, but I understand that Stu was less concerned about the fact that the the middle school director had helped the other with interview questions, and more concerned about the racist and hateful emails that were exchanged. Portions of these emails were aired on the news. Interestingly, the emails and alleged photographs never were mentioned in Jim Warren's report, which fueled even more speculation that the H-L did not want to damage the image of Stu.

I'm sure some who know more than I do about this will have more to add soon. That's the beauty of this blog: you don't censor anything and are able to maintain an air of neutrality that others cannot. I'm only saddened that the readership picked up as a result of Holliday and Silberman.

Every educator should read this blog.