Harvey Milk High School is a high school in in the East Village of New York City designed to be a safe space for students regardless of sexual orientation. It was founded to be a safe space for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ) young people. It is named after assassinated San Francisco, California supervisor Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to office and one of the best known LGBT politicians of the 20th century. He was assassinated along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone on November 27, 1978.
The school was originally run by the Hetrick-Martin Institute (HMI), an organization that provides social support to at-risk youth, especially those who are LGBTQ. After becoming a fully-accredited public school in 2002, the high school is now administered by the New York City Department of Education, separate from HMI. The school and the non-profit still share space in the same building.
The school was founded in 1985 as a small, two-room program with just over a dozen students by HMI in collaboration with the New York City Department of Education's Career Education Center. The Department of Education administers the school and is responsible for admissions. Harvey Milk was created as an alternative education program for youth who find it difficult or impossible to attend their home schools due to threats, violence, or harassment.
Students must themselves apply to transfer to the high school, like other transfer schools in New York City. Approximately 95% of the students are African American or Latino. The school has a 95% graduation rate, far above the state average, and 60% of students attend institutions of higher learning.
Mission statement and vision Edit
"We envision a school where all students are challenged to question the world around them, to develop healthy, personal identities, to participate in meaningful civic and social experiences that will allow them to formulate and realize their educational and career goals. We seek to cultivate an inclusive, academic program emphasizing literacy, technology infusion, and life-long learning skills. With the support of the extensive services provided by The Hetrick-Martin Institute (HMI) and the involvement of our students' parents/guardians in the educational process, we envision all members in the school community to share accountability for the creation and maintenance of a safe, supportive, academically rigorous, and standards-driven learning environment.
Harvey Milk High School (HMHS) is a transfer high school open to all New York City students who are seeking an alternative educational experience from their current high schools while freely expressing individuality and identity. HMHS provides students a unique, small learning community in a safe, nurturing setting designed to support educational, social, and emotional development to prepare them for adulthood, college, and the world of work. The school offers students a rigorous academic experience aligned with New York State learning standards and expectations. HMHS uses critical thinking to incorporate our history, our life experiences, and the lessons from the world around us."
Recent controversy Edit
HMHS came to national attention in 2002, when the Board of Education authorized a $3.2 million capital expansion of the school as one of its last acts prior to becoming a mayoral agency. At this time, the school also became a four-year, fully-accredited high school.
The capital provided by Board of Education allowed for the renovation of the school building. Enrollment jumped from 50 to 100 students. In 2003, “the new school's principal, William Salzman, said the school will be academically challenging and will follow mandatory English and math programs. It also will specialize in computer technology, arts and culinary arts.”
Nevertheless, the school has come under attack, with many alleging that it practices discrimination. In general, the opposition comes from social conservatives; for example, Fred Phelps protested outside the school when it opened as a public high school in 2003. State Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long also criticized the creation of the school as social engineering, asking, “Is there a different way to teach homosexuals? Is there gay math? This is wrong… There’s no reason these children should be treated separately.” Others claim that the school is trying to indoctrinate students in sexual minority culture by teaching about the history of gay people and creating an almost exclusively homosexual environment. Many assert that the solution to harassment is a zero tolerance policy against it in all public schools, not isolating gay students.
Supporters contend that this school is a pragmatic solution, providing an alternative path to a diploma for students who are unable to succeed in a traditional high school due to intolerance. Nor are all arguments against the school divided along partisan lines. Independent mayor Michael Bloomberg supported the renovation of the school while Democratic State Senator Rubén Díaz opposed it.
In 2004, the HMHS underwent a 17,000 square foot (1,600 m²) expansion and an increase to eight classrooms and 110 students.
Notable alumni Edit
References on TV Edit
In the Law & Order: SVU Season 4 episode Fallacy, detectives Benson and Stabler discussing the situation of pre-operative male-to-female Cheryl Avery, they made mention of her teachers suggesting a transfer to Harvey Milk School.
- NYC DOE Portal
- History of HMI and HMHS
- Q&As on HMHS
- HMI FAQ
- "First public gay high school to open in NYC" - CNN
- "Classes open at gay high school" - CNN
- Michael Long's criticism
- Prison Fellowship criticism
- "Is Harvey Milk High School really a good idea?" - Townhall.com
- Harvey Milk School a haven for GLBT students - Bay Windows
- Boston Phoenix synopsis of the school's role
- "Queer High School Opens to Cheers and Jeers", The Indypendent, September 9, 2003
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