In January 2010, a new online school opened in Minnesota for GLBTQ students.
Different from a brick-and-mortar high school, Internet-based schools like the GLBTQ Online High School can target students with specific learning needs or wants, like students who may have been bullied because of sexual orientation.
ThreeSixty Journalism is nonprofit youth journalism program based at the University of St Thomas in St. Paul. It is committed to bringing diverse voices into journalism and related professions and to using intense, personal instruction in the craft and principles of journalism to strengthen the civic literacy, writing skills and college-readiness of Minnesota teens.
“One student came to us after having dropped out of her previous schools. She had been so harassed that she developed mental illnesses, including post-traumatic stress syndrome. She was … unable to leave her house,” said David Glick, executive director of the new school, in an online interview.
That student ultimately didn’t enroll, but other students have to avoid unpleasant and even dangerous situations at other schools, he said. But teens have other reasons for seeking out the online school.
“Increasingly, we are getting inquiries from students who just want to feel comfortable and not worry about what their peers or teachers might think of them,” Glick said.
So far, the private online school has a small number of students, none of them from Minnesota, he said. The school, which is based in Maplewood, accepts students from any state or country, one big difference between online school and traditional schools. Tuition at GLBTQ High is $5,900 per year for full-time enrollment, but students who enroll before June 1 pay $3,900.
The school is in the process of being accredited by AdvancED, according to its website. When deciding whether or not to attend a new school, especially a private school that isn’t monitored by the government, it is a good idea to check if the school is accredited.
Accreditation means the school has been examined by an outside organization and found to provide quality education. Some colleges and universities require a student to have graduated from an accredited school. And even if they don’t, having a diploma from an accredited school will always make you a better candidate for admission into the college.
The fact that the school is in the process of being accredited “contributes to keeping our enrollment small,” Glick said. “Several potential students have not enrolled due to the newness of the school and its corresponding accreditation candidacy status.”
Glick said the school expects to be accredited by January 2012. No students will graduate before that date, he said.
Although the school is private, most of its students come from public schools in urban areas. “It has been easier for us to make connections with other organizations in urban areas, and that’s our main method for spreading the word about our school,” Glick said. “In some cases, families in rural areas have hesitated because they don’t know what to tell their friends and neighbors since everyone tends to know lots more about people’s lives in small towns.”
The school’s curriculum and staff are tailored to the needs of students. “We provide supportive teachers, many of whom are GLBTQ themselves. Our curriculum is inclusive of GLBTQ figures throughout all subject areas,” Glick said. “We have just contracted to develop a GLBTQ Studies class that will be available to all students and schools nationwide.”
The school doesn’t have very many students yet. “At this point, we have just a handful (of students). Our enrollment is still small and variable as we are a very new school. Students have come from four states. We haven’t yet had any students from Minnesota, but I don’t know why,” Glick said.
Glick thinks paying for school can be a barrier for some students, as well as parents who are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the concept of online school.
“Certainly, we are not for everyone,” Glick said. “The more narrowly a niche (school) is defined, the smaller the potential number of interested students. Very deliberately, I designed the school and its finance model so that we can function with 1 student or with 1000, so we’re patient.”
Even the school just started, Glick said he looks forward “to the day when our school can close its virtual doors because all schools – urban, suburban and rural – understand the needs of GLBT kids and thoroughly support them during the difficult time of adolescence.”