Canadians are calling for an all-gay high school in order to avoid violence and homophobic bullying in mainstream schools.
A community forum is discussing putting forward a proposal to the Toronto District School Board to establish the city’s first and only ‘gay-centric’ school.
Organized by 20-year-old Fan Wu, now a student of University of Toronto, said there was a ‘lack of education and a need for a school that encourages critical thinking, especially in areas of gender and sexual diversity’.
In an interview with Canadian gay news website Xtra, Wu said when he was a high school student, ‘gay teachers made a point of not coming out to their students’ for fear of ‘parental backlash’.
The school would include grades nine to 12, according to a teacher Javier Davila, an advisor in the TDSB’s office for gender-based violence prevention.
While some schools are more queer-friendly than others, Wu says, most high schools don’t actively encourage lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans students or teachers to be out and proud.
Some teachers who knew the young Wu’s sexuality made efforts to share books from gay writers, which he recalls being passed to him ‘like contraband’.
Michael Erickson, who is one of the lead writers of the teachers’ guide Challenging Homophobia and Heterosexism, says he would rather every school just focused on providing resources for all.
He says: ‘I am concerned when we are pulling resources and goals into making one small space safe, as opposed to asking ourselves how that should look across the system.
‘What kind of student will self-select at 13, 14 or 15 years old?
‘I think convincing teachers in schools to be integrating equity work is a better use of our resources.’
It would be based on an Afri-centric school which was set up by the board last year, in an attempt to ensure black students do not drop out. However it was criticized for segregating and forming a ghetto in the community.
The LGBT-inclusive Harvey Milk High School, set up in New York City, has seen great success since it was set up 1985. It has a 92% graduation rate, far higher than the national average.
After the community forum, an advisory committee will move the project forward.
Applications for alternative schools to the TDSB must be submitted by the end of September.