ATLANTA (ChurchMilitant.com) - A private school geared toward students who identify as gay, bisexual or transgender is set to open in Georgia this upcoming school year.
Pride School, based in Atlanta, promotes itself as a learning environment for students who are "different" and bullied at regular schools, promising to provide "LGBTQQIAA students, families and educators a safe, fun and rigorous learning environment free of homophobia and transphobia."
LGBTQQIAA, an extension of the standard LGBT, is shorthand for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual and allied.
The school, the first of its kind in the Southeast, will be open to students from kindergarten through high school, making it also one of the few LGBT schools to serve students as early as pre-kindergarten. It is anticipated to begin class in September with a per-student tuition of around $13,000 a year.
Pride School is the brainchild of Christian Zsilavetz, a self-described transgender man and teacher for 25 years. Speaking of the school Zsilavetz says, "'This is a place where [students] can just open up and be the best person they can be."
"Kids have full permission to be themselves — as well as educators," Zsilavetz continues. "Where there's no wondering: Is this teacher going to be a person for me to be myself with?"
At Pride School both students and teachers will be able to "open up" and freely act as they identify. All students, male or female, will be allowed to wear dresses should they so desire and will have full access to use whichever restroom they wish. The school's slogan reflects this, declaring Pride School as a place "[w]here freedom to be becomes your new reality."
The institution plans to operate as a "Sudbury school," or a school run by direct democracy. This implies that students are equal to teachers and are responsible for their own education based on their interests with no predetermined syllabus or curriculum.
According to the school's website:
All students will have the freedom, responsibility, and support to create their own individualized curriculum, education and school climate through trust and democratic decisionmaking processes. Students are free to discover what, when and how they prefer to learn, trusted that their natural curiosity and desire to pursue personal goals will lead them to a rigorous and rich education.
The school follows in the footsteps of Harvey Milk High School in New York City, a public high school specifically designed for LGBT students. Pride School is, however, the first such institution in a largely conservative section of the country; Atlanta is an exception, and is primarily considered a progressive center within the Southeast. Georgia remains one of several states without statewide nondiscrimination legislation geared toward LGBT students.
Zsilavetz, as a woman formerly married to a man and currently raising a six-year-old daughter and three-year-old son, cites discrimination faced as a teacher as one of the main catalysts for creating the school and seeks to make sure her own children never feel uncomfortable for coming from an "atypical family."
According to a 2013 study by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, more than a third of Georgia students claim to have been physically harassed owing to their sexual identity.