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Gay High School Sparks Debate on How to Treat Student Homosexuality With AM-Gay High School,

June 6, 1985

Gay High School Sparks Debate on How to Treat Student Homosexuality With AM-Gay High School, Bjt

NEW YORK (AP) _ New York City has what may be the nation’s first school for homosexual students who can’t cope with regular public schools, but officials in other school districts doubted Thursday that the idea will spread.

Teaching troubled or handicapped students in settings outside traditional public school walls is not unusual.

What is possibly unique about the ″Harvey Milk School,″ operating in a Greenwich Village church since April, is that it caters exclusively to homosexual high school students who dropped out, were chronically truant, had been harassed by fellow students, or who simply could not deal with public school.

″I don’t think there is anything novel about these kids going to high school. I think the public outcry should have been when these kids had to drop out of high school in the first place,″ said Steve Ashkinazy, director of clinical programs for the Institute for the Protection of Lesbian and Gay Youth, which is operating the school with the city.

Spokesmen for gay activist organizations said the larger meaning of a separate high school for homosexuals is that it dramatically underscores how traumatic life can be for gay youngsters in regular schools, and how little help they often get from teachers and school administrators.

In addition, they said, it demonstrates that public schools have done little to educate ″straight″ students about homosexuality.

A 1984 survey of 2,100 homosexuals by the National Gay Task Force found that 20 percent of lesbians and 50 percent of gay men reported being harassed, threatened or physically abused in junior or senior high school because they were homosexual. The Task Force said state surveys in New Jersey and Maine produced similar findings.

Ronald Najman, a spokesman for the task force, said the studies show the New York program ″clearly is a response to a real problem.″

″Lesbian and gay adolescents pose an enormous challenge to school administrators. It’s a silent issue,″ said Nancy Langer, a spokeswoman for Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a New York-based group specializing in homosexual issues.

Still, interviews with educators outside New York City suggested that few think a separate school for homosexuals is an idea whose time has come.

In San Francisco, which has one of the nation’s biggest concentrations of gays in the nation, schools spokesman Felix Duag said no such school exists ″and we don’t have any plans for a school similar to that type at this time.″

″We try to mainstream students so that they have the experience of meeting boys and girls from all walks of life because that’s what they’re going to do when they graduate,″ he said.

Asked if such a school might be established in Albany, N.Y., Superintendent David Brown said, ″No, of course not. We have to keep in mind when we operate public schools that we operate them to serve all students. Period.″

Los Angeles County spokesman Bob Grossman said that while most educators he knows are ″sensitive to the issue, they are not sure whether homosexuality is an appropriate area to address in curriculum.″

″As a general rule, the isolation of students with any kind of a difference has been falling into educational disfavor,″ said Robert Moseley, superintendent of Ann Arbor, Mich.’s 14,000-student school system.

Buffalo, N.Y., board of education president Mozella Richardson called the problem of homosexual students ″very serious. I’m a social worker, so I’ve had a chance to know that students who are know homosexuals do have problems in a regular school.″

But she said segregation of homosexual students was ″very wrong.″

Joyce Hunter, a program director for the institute running the Harvey Milk School in New York City, agreed that ″we don’t want to ghettoize these kids. But this is a school for chronic truants. Kids who are doing well in regular school are not going to Harvey Milk. If they didn’t go to this school, they wouldn’t go.″

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