The first of its kind, a new private school in Georgia hopes to become a safe space for LGBT students to learn. The Pride School Atlanta will open this fall as a K-12 school. The school was founded by Christian Zsilavetz, a trans teacher, and will serve both LGBT and cis, straight students who feel out of place in public schools, where verbal and physical harassment are common. The new school will be a safe space for LGBT students and teachers alike.
As the nation seeks to create more space for LGBT people, including Ken Mehlman’s push for same-sex rights, more and more people are starting LGBT safe spaces and health centers to ensure marginalized people receive the help they need. Pride School Atlanta is working to make sure they receive the education they need, too. An astounding 74% of LGBT students around the country reported being verbally harassed because of their gender expression, and 30% said they had even missed at least one day of school in the last month because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable at school.
And it isn’t just students who feel unsafe. LGBT teachers also feel pressured to keep their orientation a secret, meaning that they sometimes cannot help students learn to be better to their LGBT peers. Zsilavetz said he never felt truly open or supported by any school’s administrations, and he wanted to create a space where both students and teachers can discuss LGBT realities comfortably, without fear.
“When LGBT kids can see you, when they know that they can come to you, they’re less likely to die or be suicidal,” Zsilavetz said.
Emma Grace, a young Georgia student, was excited to hear about the Pride School. She left high school to be homeschooled because of bullying at her public high school. After she contacted Zsilavetz about attending the new school, she said she is excited “about the prospect of going to the Pride School and being more open about exploring her gender.”
“I think it’s greatly needed for a school to have LGBT-affirming surroundings and environment,” Grace said. “It’s still very much a hidden issue. Not a lot of people talk about it because they’re afraid.”
Zsilavetz does not believe that students should have to leave their schools to be treated fairly or to have access to equal education, but until we live in a world where they don’t, the Pride School Atlanta will be there to help.