This teacher is opening a school dedicated to safety for LGBTQ+ students
Author: Molly Sprayregen
This fall, a Connecticut teacher is planning to open a school dedicated to being a safe space for LGBTQ+ students.
Patricia Nicolari, who identifies as a lesbian, told NBC News she was inspired to open PROUD Academy (which stands for Proudly Respecting Our Unique Differences) based on the harassment she herself has experienced from students due to her sexuality.
Students have called her a “dyke” more than once, and she even once had “Lez” carved into her car.
“At the time, I remember thinking, ‘I’m going through so much anxiety as a teacher. I can’t imagine what our students go through questioning themselves and how unsafe it is for them to come out,’” she said.
And as states continue to propose and pass policies that make life harder for LGBTQ+ students (especially trans students), Nicolari finally decided she’d had enough.
“The political climate absolutely accelerated the need for a PROUD Academy and a need for PROUD Academies across the United States,” she said. “Our kids matter. Their lives matter. Their education matters. Their mental health matters. And we can’t have our students and families be bullied into being less than they’re capable of being.”
PROUD Academy will be the fifth school of its kind in the country and will likely serve third through twelfth-grade students. It originally was going to be seventh grade and up, but Nicolari said there was enough demand from parents of younger children that she expanded the plan. The school will offer standard courses as well as AP and honors classes, and it will also teach students LGBTQ history.
While it does not yet have a location, it plans to open in September in time for the new school year.
Nicolari said multiple families have already made plans to move from out of state so their children can attend the school.
“Some parents are just saying, ‘I just want my child to be happy again.’ And if we can offer that to a family? That’d be priceless.”
Connecticut resident Melissa Combs is one such parent excited to send her trans son to PROUD Academy and has been helping with the fundraising efforts. She said her son is constantly bullied at his current school.
“This means that I won’t knowingly send my child into a hostile environment every day,” she said. “It means that my kid will get to be who he is 100% of the time.”
Nicolari added that most parents who have expressed interest so far have trans or nonbinary children.
Nicolari also told PinkNews that interest in the school has extended beyond LGBTQ+ students. LGBTQ+ parents have also expressed excitement about their kids attending school in an accepting environment. She also said other LGBTQ+-accepting schools around the country attract straight and cisgender students whose families simply want them to attend school in a welcoming environment.
She added that she is anticipating there will be backlash to the school’s opening, but that she isn’t going to back down.
“We’re ready for the storm,” she declared.
Actual Story on LGBTQ Nation
Author: Molly Sprayregen