By Neff, Lisa
The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Becky Thompson and Pamala Stone, two Dallas-area teachers, found inspiration in a troubling statistic--that over 80% of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered students are verbally harassed at school--and six years ago established the Walt Whitman Community School in Dallas. The first private school in the nation to specifically serve gay youth, Whitman has served as a haven for youth used to taking some hard knocks and furious punches.
The school has taken some hard knocks too. A new documentary airing April 17 on MTV, School's Out: The Life of a Gay High School in Texas, shows how Whitman has had to struggle with insufficient funding, no accreditation, and low enrollment. Thompson, who works as a teacher, counselor, and principal at the school, has even had to tell students that Whitman may have to close its doors.
But times have changed for the five-classroom school since the documentary was shot. And the 2002-2003 academic year will end with a graduation rather than last rites. The Advocate talked with Thompson one morning before classes got under way.
You had a difficult school year last year. What does the future hold?
We're a very small nonprofit, and I think that money is an ongoing demand. We struggle every year. We applied for accreditation in June of 2000 and were turned down for six reasons, but one major one--our sliding tuition.
But we started to reapply in January, and once we are accredited, there are grants we can apply for that will open up a vast array of funding.
Do most of the kids come to you after being harassed in public schools?
Yes. Each kid's story, from the day we opened, has been different but similar. There's Angel--she's talked about people gluing her to a chair. …