by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
David Glick, executive director and founder of GLBTQ Online High School - the world's first online high school specifically for LGBTQ youth - asks, 'Imagine a school where you can be you. Where your friends share similar experiences and similar questions. Where you can get a high-quality education while receiving comprehensive support from adults and peers. Where all staff members genuinely want to work with you. Because of who you are. Even if you're not sure.'
According to Glick, he's invented such a school. The GLBTQ Online High School (www.glbtqonlinehighschool.com), is a safe and welcoming educational community that provides a high-quality, comprehensive college-preparatory online high school experience for students who are LGBT, those questioning their sexuality or gender, and others.
'The school is the result of my long-term involvement in education and virtual schools, and my even longer-term interest in issues of diversity, civil rights, power struggles, and similar issues,' Glick told Seattle Gay News. 'My own personal experience with harassment in schools as a teacher showed me firsthand how awful kids can be to people who are different, as well as the disparities in education that students receive based on their location. Put it all together, and a virtual school specifically for GLBTQ kids makes perfect sense.'
Another important piece of the story took place when Glick tried to start a school for GLBTQ youth in Chicago.
'While current U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was the leader of Chicago's schools, he and others tried to provide a separate school for some GLBTQ students who wanted it,' Glick recalled. 'To make a long story short, the school never got started due to the politics of the situation, and those students who wanted a safe and separate place to learn never got it. If Chicago can't pull it off, then not many cities would be able to. In fact, there are only a handful of such schools in the country.'
Glick says his school is unique in that even kids in rural areas or conservative towns can now attend a school created for GLBTQ students.
'That's pretty cool, and only an online school such as ours can do that,' he said.
Although David maintains there is a need for the GLBTQ Online High School to exist, he understands that the school is not for everyone. 'We're not claiming this school is right for all kids, and many GLBTQ youth have happy and successful high school experiences,' he said. 'We aren't trying to take that away from anybody. However, we do believe that having this option available for kids who want it is incredibly important.'
Too often, we see schools where the needs of GLBTQ youth are not being met, said Glick.
'We all know the stories of bullying and harassment and, tragically, suicide, but there's more to it than that. GLBTQ kids deserve to see people like them represented throughout the curriculum,' he said. 'They deserve teacher role models who themselves are successful GLBTQ adults. They deserve to have GLBTQ friends, along with their straight friends. They deserve to be able to act and dress and express themselves in healthy ways. Sadly, some schools can't deal with that. Some schools gag their teachers through policies that prevent them from discussing or supporting GLBTQ issues. Some deny kids the opportunity to go to prom or to express their gender. Others simply don't acknowledge the non-conforming identities of important historical figures.'
'Schools can and must change, but that is a long, slow process,' he continued. 'We provide an immediate opportunity for kids to begin attending a school that doesn't make them feel like second-class citizens or that they can't express themselves in appropriate ways.'
Glick told SGN it is important for people to understand that the goal of the school is not to segregate students. 'Segregation, particularly in its negative connotations, generally refers to the government forcing separation between various populations. Nobody is forcing anybody to choose this school, and I'd be the first and loudest to object to any such requirement,' he said. 'People often choose to be with others who share similar experiences, in education and in other parts of our lives. There are boys' schools, girls' schools, parochial schools, deaf/hard-of-hearing schools, subject-area focused schools, schools with all sorts of different focus populations.'
Glick points out that, 'In some cases, the local schools are 'heterosexuals only' schools. All of these schools have a similar goal: to allow people to get an education with peers who share one aspect of their identities. This school falls into that same category. We provide GLBTQ students with the opportunity to get an education with other GLBTQ students, allowing that particular aspect of their identity to form a common bond.'
Andrew Miller, an educational consultant and educator with expertise in culturally responsive teaching, online education, and engaging teaching and learning, has been tapped to teach some courses at the GLBTQ Online High School. Miller travels nationally training and coaching schools, teachers, and administrators.
'There is nothing out there in the world of online learning that offers this type of material,' said Miller, an expert in the field of online education. 'It is so important because it legitimizes GLBTQ issues, people and history in the education system. It is progress toward systemic change, and I feel privileged to be able to push that change along while helping adults and children learn in a new and innovative way.'
Glick is confident that his school is a positive way to combat GLBTQ-bullying. 'We provide a safe school free from bullying, allowing bullying victims to escape the harassment and return to a focus on education,' he said. 'We have various security and monitoring systems in place to ensure that bullying doesn't happen in our own environment.'
Glick says the GLBTQ Online High School will have an important impact on other schools. 'By providing students with an alternative, we also provide pressure on the traditional school system to address the needs of GLBTQ youth,' he said. 'Many schools still function under the assumption that they run a monopoly and that students have no choice. That makes it easy for schools to ignore the needs of some students. It's not always deliberate; schools are overwhelmed with all they have to do. However, if a few GLBTQ students leave a school, thereby reducing the funding that the school receives from the state, the school is bound to notice. If that happens, maybe they'll work a little harder to meet the needs of these kids.'
The school's GLBTQ Studies course is also an important tool. Research shows that if students understand more about minority populations in general and the GLBTQ population in particular, they are less likely to engage in harassing behaviors.
'Our GLBTQ Studies course is available to all schools and students nationwide,' Glick told SGN. 'Literally every high school in the country could now say they can offer GLBTQ Studies. Only a virtual school such as ours can make that happen.'
Glick explained the school has three goals: to take away the negatives, add the positives, and provide high-quality education to GLBTQ students.
'We're very excited about the GLBTQ Studies course that is starting next month. This is the first known high-school-level GLBTQ Studies course being offered online,' said Glick. 'Schools, teachers, and students nationwide now have access to a high-quality course in the topic, and we're looking forward to reaching lots of people. To start with, we're running both student and adult sections of the course since we believe many teachers, counselors, parents, and others may be interested as well.'
'I'd also like to point out that we are a private, tuition-based school,' he said. 'That means we can't serve everyone we want to because we don't receive any state or federal funding. We welcome donations, large and small, to help provide scholarships to those who couldn't otherwise attend.'
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