by Amy Wooten and Kaitlyn Mcavoy
Chicago school officials pushed back the vote for all five proposed schools with 2010 openings, including the proposed Pride Campus, for an entire month.
On Oct. 17, Chicago Public Schools ( CPS ) officials revealed that they will not vote on the proposed Social Justice High School Pride Campus until the school board's Nov. 19 meeting. The school board originally scheduled the final vote for its Oct. 22 meeting.
Pride Campus, if approved, would be open to all students, but would focus on creating a safe and affirming environment for LGBTQ students and their allies.
Mayoral liaison Bill Greaves e-mailed Windy City Times that ' [ w ] e will use the next month to continue working with the CPS administration on the proposal, and we remain committed to doing everything we can to win the Board's approval.'
Although public hearings regarding the proposed Pride Campus were overwhelmingly positive, there were members of the community who disapproved of creating a gay-friendly school. Some members of the local LGBTQ community felt that the school would shield students from the 'real world' and become a form of segregation, or a 'dumping ground,' for LGBTQ youth. According to the Chicago Tribune, CPS CEO Arne Duncan recently met with local ministers, who also disapproved of the plan.
On Oct. 15, a third public hearing gave people one more chance to voice their opinions on any of the 20 proposed new Chicago Public Schools, including the Social Justice High School-Pride Campus. The hearing was held in the CPS board chambers at 125 S. Clark.
About 40 people came to the hearing held at the CPS Board Chamber downtown where 25 educators, parents and community members spoke. Of those, four spoke on behalf of the Pride Campus—three saying it was a great opportunity for LGBT teens to have a school concentrated on their support and acceptance.
'If I had an opportunity to attend a high school with an open mind about what I was struggling with internally for years—my sexual identity—the power of knowledge and community support would have empowered me to sooner understand that I do belong,' said 28-year-old Lawrence Perea, who is a member of the Advisory Council on LGBT Issues.
The Rev. Kevin Tindell, who leads the Galewood United Church of Christ and is the parent of a 7th-grade boy who is currently questioning his sexuality, said that the school is a necessary and overdue move toward LGBT tolerance.
'This is a proactive step to a just community,' said Tindell.
However, Yasmin Nair, a lesbian and Chicago freelance writer, said the school is not a step forward for the LBGT youth, but a step towards more seclusion between the straight and gay communities. [ Editor's note: Nair is a columnist and writer for Windy City Times. ]
The CPS board proposed the school Oct. 8 and a public hearing was held that same night at the Center on Halsted, where many also spoke in support for the school.
'The Office of New Schools believes that these schools will be positive additions to the community as public schools with rigorous standards for high academic achievement,' said Angie Alleman, recruitment coordinator for the Office of New Schools.