High School for Gays Opens in Greenwich Village
A city high school for homosexual students--the first such public school in the United States--has opened in Manhattan with 20 students, and its operators expect enrollment to triple next fall.
The school, which opened quietly in April in a Greenwich Village church, is named the Harvey Milk School, for the gay activist and San Francisco city supervisor who was shot to death in 1978.
Steve Ashkinazy, the school’s organizer, shepherded the students past reporters trying to interview them today and put his hand over camera lenses.
The school’s existence became known generally today when the New York Times reported on it.
Ashkinazy said he believes that 10% of the city’s high school population is homosexual, but “most blend in because they keep it a secret,” although a few high schools have homosexual clubs.
The Milk school is not a regular facility of the New York City public school system but is operated and financed by the city Board of Education in conjunction with the Institute for the Protection of Lesbian and Gay Youth.
The 20 students enrolled include 14 boys and six girls ranging in age from 14 to 19.
“For the most part, the males are overtly effeminate, some are transvestites, and the girls are all tough,” said Fred Goldhaber, the school’s only teacher and a self-described homosexual. “All of them would be targets for abuse in regular schools.”
Ashkinazy said all of the youths described themselves as homosexuals who have had difficulty “fitting in at conventional high schools.”
The school’s backers hope to expand the student body and staff and move the school to a larger space with better facilities by fall.
“A lot of kids are waiting to get in,” said Goldhaber, who teaches all five subjects in the school’s curriculum.
Ashkinazy said the idea for the school arose from the number of gay or lesbian students who were dropping out of school because of threats or adjustment problems.
He said the Milk school was offering a second chance to teen-agers “who have not set foot in a classroom because they were being beaten up, harassed and it was actually dangerous for them to go to school.”