(CNSNews.com) - Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan, who President-elect Barack Obama announced yesterday as his choice to be Secretary of Education, supported and approved plans for a special public high school for homosexuals.
Social Justice High School, Pride Campus was one of a number of projected public schools that Duncan approved for Chicago. The school was planned to open its doors to all students while offering support for homosexual and lesbian students and including notable gay and lesbian figures in its curriculum.
Duncan’s opinion of the planned school appeared in a Sept. 11 article in the Chicago Tribune.“Given how large and diverse we are, I think there’s a niche there,” he said. “I think there will be more gay students in the school than other schools, but I wouldn’t be surprised if less than half the students are gay.”
Duncan approved the school in October and then said that he would ask the Chicago Board of Education to approve it as well.
“We want to create great new options for communities that have been traditionally underserved,” the Chicago Tribune quoted Duncan as saying in an Oct 9 article. “If you look at national studies, you can see gay and lesbian students with high dropout rates . . . I think there is a niche there we need to fill.”
Laurie Higgins, a spokeswoman for the conservative Illinois Family Institute, expressed concern over the selection of Duncan to be the future Secretary of Education.
“Our concern, of course, is that he’s going to take these values -- these arguable, unproven theories about homosexuality and how public schools should treat it -- and using his power and position, affirm that in some kind of more nationwide proposals, or policies,” Higgins told CNSNews.com.
“Nowhere in there did Arne Duncan express anything other than approval for this school,” Higgins said of the discussions that preceded the city school board’s vote on the school proposal.
This means, Higgins said, that “he necessarily has taken a position on what homosexuality is -- the nature of it, and its morality. In order to have curricula that affirm homosexuality, you have to have come to these prior conclusions.”
Cindy Crane, executive director of the Gay-Straight-Alliance for Safe Schools, was highly supportive of Obama’s choice of Duncan for the position.
“We very much support these sort of efforts,” Crane told CNSNews.com, “so from that perspective, we’re very happy that he has been offered this position.”
“We’re pleased that someone who established himself as understanding the special challenges of LGBTs (Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgendered) or sexual minorities within his own state is now in a federal position and will be able to influence legislation and budgets on a federal level,” she continued.
While the school’s design team eventually removed the plan from consideration by the school board, Duncan reportedly thought the original plan for the high school was “absolutely interesting and intriguing,” according to the Tribune.
Duncan reportedly hasn’t given up on the homosexual high school.
“The design team will take time to reconsider those ideas and come back with a stronger proposal,” Duncan told the Tribune. “This is a very healthy part of the process. There’s plenty of time. It’s more important to get it right.”
The high school, which is known officially as “Social Justice High School -- Pride Campus,” would be an offshoot of an existing school in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago, called Social Justice High School.
Duncan also supported that school, as well as the communal efforts to bring the school about.
In 2001, 14 members of the Little Village community went on a hunger strike, after plans for a new school in Little Village were put on hold once again, reportedly because of budget constraints in the district.
Duncan rose to the position of CEO of Chicago Public Schools shortly after the 19-day hunger strike ended. Soon, $5 million was promised for the school’s design and preparation.
“I support them,” Duncan said of the hunger strikers. “I solved the thing. I actually have a hell of a lot of respect for them.”
Four small schools comprising Little Village High School opened in 2005 --one of which was Social Justice High School.
“These schools reflect one of the central goals of our new school creation strategy,” he reportedly remarked after the opening of Little Village High School. “We want to create the kind of schools that our community wants and needs.”