School's out: Should we segregate LGBT students?

rainbowskoolSchools are routinely failing their LGBT students. Homophobic bullying is widely reported, teachers feel awkward around the topic, and research regularly shows that rates of depression and even suicide are much higher for LGBT teenagers than for the rest of the population.

So what can we do to make the lives of those teenagers who are suffering a little bit better? One suggestion which has been suggested by the group LGBT North West is schools specifically for homosexual, bisexual and transgender students. The group has recently been given a government grant to assess the feasibility of opening a school in Manchester.

A lot of commenters have expressed uneasiness with the plan. Depressingly predictable homophobia has been spouted, but the main reasonable objection is that segregation is not a route to future acceptance. If queer students don’t go to mainstream schools, the argument goes, the straight kids at those schools are less likely to grow up tolerant. There may be some truth to this. Homophobia, as the name suggests, is based on fear. Fear of the different. Fear of the anonymous gay sexual predator who’ll corrupt your children. This fear is broken when you know someone gay, and learn that they are a rounded real individual and not a scary caricature.

This argument would be fine, and LGBT students’ presence at mainstream schools would undoubtedly be a good thing, if the world we lived in were a better place right now. If no queer students ever feared for their safety at school. If bullying never got so bad that they racked up huge truant records through feeling unable to leave the house. If they never ended up in pupil referral units because mainstream school couldn’t keep them safe.

This is where the Manchester school would come in. Although the idea is just in the research stages at the moment, the group has said that the school would be an alternative education provider- a non-mainstream school specifically for students who are no longer attending their regular school. This is for the students who have already suffered so much that they can’t go to the school they were placed in anymore. Bullying is one of the major causes of LGBT youth dropping out of school, and anything that addresses this problem can only be a good thing.

The Manchester group has also stated that they would provide a number of part time places for kids who want to keep their place at mainstream school but who could be helped by the LGBT specific support on offer.

In the long term, schools should be fully integrated and able to support the specific needs of their queer students. This isn’t the case right now. So when students are falling out of mainstream schooling because their sexuality or sexual identity puts them at risk, maybe LGBT specific schools are an option.

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Samantha Neville-Jones

Samantha is a twenty-something teacher and aspiring writer. She lives in south London with a boy and two pet gerbils, and loves obscure sitcoms, serious debates on silly topics, and jammy dodgers.

3 Responses to School's out: Should we segregate LGBT students?

  • janis hetherington says:

    Totally wrong. Integration is the only way. My son suffered no abuse at his ‘enlightened’ schools on London ..yes I am talking 35 years ago but plenty here in Oxon/Northants. It educated the other pupils and you have to confront bullies. Segregation is a form of defeat.

  • Rebecca says:

    It’s a nice thought but it’ll never fly, there’s far too many issues:

    Who’s funding it? Will it be a state or a free school? What about parents who want their LGBTQ kids to have recognised qualifications if it is a free school? What about state schools being massively underfunded as it is, how will they find this one?

    How are they funding it? What are their interests and do they have a conflict of interest?

    How many places will it have (how many kids will kill themselves when they find out they can’t have a place there becuase there’s no spaces and this was their last hope?)?

    What about LGBTQ perceived kids who are bullied for that- will this school be open to them even if they’re straight and cis?

    What about kids not out to their parents or with homophobic parents how do we get them enrolled or parents who don’t want them to go there becuase of some other reason such as the entirely predictably poor results the school is going to show as these kids have had so much upheaval in their education that they’ll probably never catch up?

    What about the curriculum; will these kids have to sit through religious studies class teaching them how religion hates them or will it be nixed from the timetable despite being a legal requirement for all schools in the UK?

    Will gay kids have to sit through sex ed classes on hetero sex that’s aimed at the bi kids? Will the lesbians be made to sit through sex ed on how to safely perform anal penetration aimed at the gay boys? Or will bi kids just have to sit in on both of those classes and a separate one covering heterosex? What about asexual kids, are you going to separate them and give them crosswords to do while you teach their peers about safe sex?

    What about asexuals, will they have a place at this school? How are you going to intergrate them into a place that is built on the concept of sex being at the center of their students lives when their experience is the exact opposite of that?

    What about issues of bullying at the LGBTQ school based on sexuality, or are we going to segregate within the school by letters as well? Are we going to have lesbian teens ostracising bi girls for not being gay enough? Gay boys splitting into cliques of bears and twinks? What are you going to do when bi identified kids and pan identified kids start fighting over labels in the playground? What about trans kids* who don’t want surgery and their classmates bully them and tell them they’re not really trans*? Putting victims together doesn’t mean it’s all going to be sunshine and rainbows.

    What about the specialist mental health help these kids will needs- where’s that coming from and being funded from?

    How do we ensure that teachers employed are up to date on the issues these kids deal with? You can’t just employ LGBTQ teachers that’s discrimination.

    What about security? How will they protect the kids going to and from school? How will they protect the school building itself? They might burn it down with the kids inside one day if they manage to get onto the grounds! How much are they budgeting to fix broken windows and clean egged walls? What about security for the teachers cars?

    Even religious schools have to allow a minimum percentage of students from other religions in, how many straight kids are they going to have to let in to comply with equalities legislation? Or are they going to just ride roughshod over that too?

    The list goes on and on. There’s no council that would be willing to address all of that so this project is dead in the water. I wish they would find good solutions to all of this and put it in place but they have neither the time nor the money to do so.

  • Lee O says:

    How about we start dealing with the bullies seriously before we start yanking kids out of their schools and act like the only way we can exist is if we are exiled? If we took all the money building these segregated schools would cost, and put it into, let’s say, programs aimed at teaching tolerance, maybe we would start to force change. Or how about we just segregate all the bullies into bully schools? See how silly that sounds. We need to co-exist, and we will change nothing if we just separate ourselves. It’s pride – not hide.

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