Outcast High

A proposal high school for gay and lesbian students in Chicago has expanded its focus to all “disenfranchised” students and changed “Pride” to “Solidarity” in its name.

“While the school will be open to all students, its special mission will be to provide a haven where students can feel safe and valued for who they are,” reads the mission statement of the proposed school.

Some feared the original idea would segregate gay and lesbian students and suggest that they don’t belong in mainstream high schools.  I wonder what mix of students will enroll, assuming the school is approved.

Update: School organizers will take another year to develop the proposal for the school, which they hope will open in 2010.

About Joanne


  1. Attractive though it may be to have a special, “safe” place for the leftovers and left outs, I don’t know that there is any way around the need to ensure that ALL schools are safe places for ALL students. To assume that all the “different” kids get along automatically because they are all excluded from other places is just silly.

    It’s time that we grow up and start to understand and apply the things that build a respectful school climate.

  2. The only way to make ALL schools safe for ALL students is to get rid of the students that make schools unsafe, as well as making it harder to learn (i.e., the extremely disruptive students, the bullies, etc.)

    But, in today’s cultural climate, that’s an impossibility. It takes an act of Congress in most U.S. school districts to get a student suspended… and even then it’s only temporary.

    Most of the students that get suspended enjoy it, because they didn’t want to to go school anyway…

    The sad truth is, school isn’t for everyone. Some people are simply incapable of academic thinking, and others are simply incapable of getting along with others.

  3. You’d think it would be easier to start a school for trouble makers instead.

  4. Unfortunately there will always be some poor soul at the bottom of the pecking order in any hierarchy. If they cannot control this in prison why would they be able to control it in school?

    A long time ago in another life I recall dealing with people I describe as “wanting to be a bully when they grew up”. These people weren’t “good enough” to be a bully in school, but when they joined the Army they thought they were going to achieve ther dream.

    I think these same kids might apply to this school, because they want to be the alpha male somewhere sometime and they could be a real problem.

    They did not manage to become bully’s in the Army. They seemed to always pick on the wrong guy, a small friendly guy who they did not know was a strongman, wrestler, boxer or a guy with violent friends. Some kept repeating their mistake for years. It always made my day when the “bully want to be” got stomped. This entire show took place out of sight of my commanders.

    The only people who got away with being bullys were the ones with the rank to protect them and even then sometimes the tables were turned.

  5. Not at all certain that alpha male equates to bully. Eliminating the bullies means moving out about 20% of the school population. Not sure where CS envisions them going–unless it is to some boot camp facility where they can be bullied–not that this is an effective change agent, and pretty dangerous to boot.

    On the other hand, it is possible for adults to model and teach values other than bullying (inclusion for instance). Furthermore there is a growing body of legal decisions to indicate that they (meaning schools, teachers) actually have some obligation to change the anarchy that allows kids to be hurt by other kids through bullying and harassment.

    It’s amusing–one of the revised Chicago Sun headlines said that the school board was going to vote on the creation of an anti-bullying school. Which only makes one wonder–does that make all the others officially pro-bullying? Bully neutral?

  6. Maybe 20% of the population was never meant to be formally schooled beyond 8th Grade? Maybe some people weren’t meant to be in an academic environment? They clearly don’t want to be. Not even in a “I’d rather be hanging out with my friends, but I understand this is important” kind of way.

    You can model and set good examples all you want, but if a person isn’t receptive to it, at any age, it won’t matter. It’s just a fact of life that there will always be people who are so self-centered and ignorant that they cannot be rehabilitated. I wish it wasn’t true, but it is. 🙁

  7. I have never met an alpha male who was a bully. I met some bullies who thought they were alpha males. The bullies were slightly more aggressive than the kids they terrorized.

    I do think some bullies do grow out of it. I am not sure if it is maturity, a different environment or education.

  8. Where does the statistic of 20% of students as bullies show up?

  9. It came from the e-based prevention website:


    The complete citation is:
    “Studies show that between 15-25% of U.S. students are bullied with some frequency (“sometimes or more often”) while 15-20% report that they bully others with some frequency. (Melton et al, 1998; Nansel et al, 2001)”

    The prevalence says far less to me about how terrible our young people are than it does about what we as adults are willing to overlook (and in some cases encourage).

  10. The prevalence says far less to me about how terrible our young people are than it does about what we as adults are willing to overlook (and in some cases encourage).

    You know, I’ve been thinking about this whole thing, and I wonder how much of this bullying problem is caused by the way we structure kids social lives in schools. It’s interesting to look at the traditional stereotype of an “alpha wolf”, using force to bring the subordinate wolves into line and .compare that to wolf packs in the wild. When wolves are in packs in the wild, they don’t develop the alpha wolf behaviors because packs are age-differentiated groups where certain wolves provide leadership due to age and experience. Only when wolves are placed in captivity and are forced to coexist with stranger wolves about whom they know nothing do they develop the alpha wolf behavior.

    In most schools, kids are grouped together by age and nothing else, and an alpha-beta-gamma-etc. hierarchy develops because of this artificial isolation. Kids who wouldn’t dare act up towards their parents or anyone else in the real world see no problem with bullying the lower-ranking kids at their school. I think that’s how you get to the 20% number. Thankfully, for most of these kids, the behavior goes away when they move out into the world.

  11. Q–I think that Bronfenbrenner said much the same things about the way that we “socialize” (or don’t) kids in schools–rigidly age-segregated and only a very narrow slice of the adult population (he said mostly those with master’s degrees) come in actual contact with them. Officially we pretty much ignore any socialization (at least from middle school on upward) that either happens or needs to happens. Is it any wonder that we find so much anarchy?

    But, I think that even beyond the level of inattention to socialization needs (which I would contend are very real, and part and parcel of teaching content–particularly at middle school), is the “hot button” nature of some of the things that kids need to counter the basis on which they hang their bullying efforts. There are folks who firmly believe that a pictorial history of two male penguins raising a (is this what you call a baby penguin?) chick does not belong in an elementary library and that CTW should not document the workings of a maple sugar farm if it is owned by two women raising a child in a relationship. We won’t even get into things like cucumbers and safety and whether the world developed over centuries or in days. There are folks who echo Lily Tomlin’s famous satirical statement, “why don’t people like that just stay home,” when it comes to education of students with disabilities. Sad to say, some are in the classroom.

    When we leave kids on their own to socialize (and further, throw up barriers like age segregation), yes, it is to be expected that there is some trial and error that takes them down paths that some will later abandon. But if you go further and realize that while about 20% of kids report that they have been bullied, there are about 10% that have been bullied regularly. When you delve into some groups, the numbers go up. This reflects something different and that is the ready access (relatively unchallenged) of belief-systems that support the exclusion of some groups. This is something that can be–and the courts are increasingly saying must be–challenged.

  12. ‘Alpha wolf’ is the wrong image– try ‘alpha chimp’ instead. We aren’t canines, we’re primates. To see this, all you have to do is look at the way kids organize themselves when not part of a structured activity. How wolves behave in nature is irrelevant.

    If you want to see an alpha male, visit a prison. I suspect that what most people think of as alpha males are really betas who have learned to be successful while evading the ‘silverback’ (not necessarily another individual person).

    It’s nice and romantic to fantasize about ourselves as lions and tigers and wolves, but in terms of social interaction I think reality is somewhere between chimps and bonobos. So I guess it’s a choice between brawls and orgies.

  13. Separate but equal? Really? 2008? Really?

    The only way to change someone’s mind is for them to see that someone they’ve grown to trust has a different opinion. Bullies are bullies until they or someone they care about gets bullied (or someone they want to date points out how silly bullying is). Unfortunately for everyone else, school is the venue where bullies learn to trust others and slowly, hopefully, realize their errors.