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Choosing a high school for gay son

Feb 2008

My son recently told me he might be gay. He's going to be in high school next year and we have some choices about where to send him to school - We've applied to a couple of private schools and we are in the process of moving and so could include this new information in choosing a neighborhood for public high schools (Berkeley, Marin, Albany?). We ( and he) have wondered before about his sexual orientation so this isn't totally out of the blue, although he's feeling a bit more sure of it. Obviously this can't be our only consideration, but it's a big one. We want him to figure things out for himself, but also to feel safe and supported! I did search for archived information but didn't find much. Thanks in advance for sensitive advice! anonymous

Hello, It's smart you are considering the right school for your son as his high school experience will most likely be greatly influenced by his sexuality and how others perceive/respond to it. I have had (one is passed now) two brothers who were/are gay and I can say with confidence that the acceptance or lack there of (as was the case with the younger of the two) of who they were and what their preferences were had consequences that lasted and will last their whole lives.

I cannot speak to which school you should send him to, but certainly at public schools there is less tolerence and far lesser resources to deal with the consequences of that intolerance.

I can also tell you that your son telling you that he ''might'' be gay is his way of breaking it to you easily, giving you (subconsciously) the hope that there might be a chance he's not. If he's admitting that he might be, he most definitely is. This is not a choice for him. And you said this is not a surprise for you, indicating that there were signs earlier on. I'm only telling you this so you might have a realistic perception of what's to come. But it sounds like you support him, and I would encourage you to continue on, and just encourage him to be himself and love him no matter what. The best thing you can ever do for him is let him know that you are on his side, gay or not. wish my brothers had parents like you

Maybeck High School in Berkeley has a wonderful, accepting and progressive social environment. My second child is there now; my older one graduated from there and is doing very well in college. Maybeck is definitely a place you can be gay/bi or ''on the spectrum'' and be totally accepted.

Check out an open house, and talk to the teachers and students who give presentations. Also, each of my teens were sold on the place after they spent a day visiting classes during 8th grade. They are very different kids, and it has been great for both of them. By spending a day at school, your son will really get a feel for the program. Maybeck is academically rigorous (without being overwhelming), so if your he is a reasonably strong student, it could be a great match. Satisfied parent

I don't know how arts-oriented your son is, but have two daughters at Oakland School for the Arts, and we have found that there are many openly gay kids at this school. These kids (mostly boys that we know of) seem very well liked, and well accepted. In fact, the school does a great job in making kids from various backgrounds, interests, and family structures feel included and part of the school community.

OSA is moving into the newly-refurbished Fox Theatre next year, and has a great college-prep curriculum. Students can choose acting, music (instrumental or vocal), dance, visual arts or theater tech as their area of emphasis. There is an audition required for admission. OSA parent

Being a gay teen is difficult in any high school, even in the ''progressive'' Bay Area. All high schools, private and public, in this area seem to have Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA) These are student groups with faculty advisors. It will be important for your son to join the new school's group and establish a support group of other lbgtq kids and straight allies.

When choosing high schools you might would to ask the administration if there are any ''out'' teachers, staff members (who are usually fantastic resources for the gay, questioning kid); also ask how much school support is there for the GSA, how many active members, how does the school deal with biased/hate comments? Is sexual orientation discussed in classes? Is there a school counselor who kids can talk to about coming out issues. I'd suggest going with a small school like Marin Academy or maybe even CPS. The main thing is you want a place where an adult can keep an eye on him, just to make sure he's doing okay and not being targeted--this is difficult to do in hugh schools like Berkeley High. Although if you think your kid would prefer to be ''anonymous'' Berkeley High could work. Hope this helps. --an ally

I am the parent of a sophmore at Berkeley High School and based on the discussions she and I have regarding gay teens (she's heterosexual but accepting of the LBGT community) kids are able to be themselves because there are other kids just like them. Also there are staff members who are lesbian and gay (and open about it) and there are support groups for these teens and the school has a health center that also offers counseling for kids to have an outlet to talk to someone. For the most part from what I've observed from being on campus is that these kids are more welcomed opposed to being outcast. I also would like to say my daughter has a teacher who falls in this catergory that we absolutely adore (my daughter stops by her class just to hang out and chat afterschool) because she is a good educator which is all that matters.
I'm responding late to your posting, but had a few comments. My daughter declared her bisexuality in 8th grade. She was at a Berkeley public middle school and joined the strong Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA). It was a really good move for her. It helped her to define herself (or to resist definition-depending on how you want to look at it). It was a great group of kids that did many activities together. The school counselor was the adult facilitator. When she moved to Berkeley High, I asked her if she was going to join up. She didn't, but knew many members. I can't speak to how the openly gay kids are treated, but I can say that my daughter has never come home saying she was picked on or beat-up or whatever. The culture at Berkeley High is a mixed bag, but it seems to me that these days being gay or bi is not what it was when us parents were teens. It's MUCH more accepting, at least in our little bubble of Berkeley. I'm not so sure about that when venturing out into the hinterlands of Richmond or San Leandro. I tell my daughter to be careful and not be too openly affectionate with her girlfriend when she's in places that I think are less accepting. Maybe that's wrong, but I don't want anything to happen to her. She's quite aware of the homophobia that is prevalent elsewhere in the world. I think in her experience (from what I know) the public schools really do try to deal with the issues and are supportive. Now, it could be VERY different for boys. I'm not aware of openly anti-gay behavior towards the gay boys that I know. But I would encourage your son to search out the GSA at his school. It's a place to start to feel accepted in the world outside of home, and a great place to talk about feelings and issues that come up with peers. good luck!

East Bay Schools for child of same sex parents

April 2007

Our daughter is still a year from kindergarten, but we are trying to find out where the kids of same sex parents go to school. This question has been asked before, and the responses I have seen are primarily private schools. I want to know the experience of same sex parents (2 moms specifically) sending their kids to the public schools. We live in West Contra Costa County. We would like to send our daughter to public school, but we don't want her to be the only child in the school with this family model. We are open to private school as well, but were hoping to save her college savings for college, and not kindergarten. We would also like to know of any positive school experiences related to being a child of same sex parents, or any challenges you have hit along the way. Looking forward to hearing your stories! 2 mom family with awesome daughter


  • Black Pine Circle Berkeley
  • Harding Elementary El Cerrito (3 reviews)
  • Joaquin Miller Elementary Oakland
  • St. Paul's Episcopal School Oakland

    Other advice:

    As one Mom of a two Mom family with a soon-to-be second grade girl, we have found that we were often the ''first 2 Mom family'' or the ''first Identified 2 Mom Family'' at our daughter's infant care, Small Trans Depot; preschool, Aquatic Park School and elementary school, Joaquin Miller in Oakland.

    At the infant care and preschool, many other 2 Mom families joined, and by the time we left there were at least 8 at each facility. We NEVER felt slighted or out of place at either school. Some of the 2 Mom families felt more comfortable that they had another family like theirs attend first. We spent a LOT of time at the first two places answering questions about how our daughter came to be. Most people were rather appalled that although I gave birth, her other Mom had to go through a legal adoption - which our home, finances, relationship and so on were scrutinized. Most said that if traditional families had to go through the same rigor, there would be fewer children on the planet.

    Then we went joined Joaquin Miller ... (GREAT school!) and thought that we would have the same questions, concerns, comments. We asked the principal how many other two Mom families there were. She said she thought there was one - but wasn't sure. From the first play days at the Roberts Park until today, we have been nothing but welcome. At the back to school picnic, the Dads Club barbequed burgers and dogs, my daughter asked about the Dad's Club and how there were no Moms, I told her ''well, that's one volunteer club I can't join.'' At that, one of the Dads said, “yes you can, we welcome anyone who wants to make our school the best it can be” - within a couple of months I was in the Dads Club.

    There are at least 5 other two Mom families at Joaquin Miller. The Principal, Teachers, PTA, Committees, Children and other overall environment has been nothing but inclusive and generous. If you are lucky enough to get to become a Joaquin Miller family, know that you will have many families who welcome you and a few that are like you.

    Good luck to you! My advice is to answer the questions, join the groups and show your daughter that you are more like the school community than you are different. Another 2 Mom Family of a Terrific Daughter

    You asked specifically about public schools, but you also asked for positive experiences generally, so I thought as one mom in a two-mom family I'd share some things about our daughter's private school that I think might be useful to look for in either kind of school. (1) The school has out lesbian faculty members, including some with kids. (2) The school does a unit on families in second grade that includes watching ''That's a Family'' and discussing gay and lesbian families. (3) The school library has books and videos that deal with gay and lesbian families. (4) The school provides parents of prospective students with contact information for current parents with various ''affiliations,'' including gay/lesbian (as well as adoptive, various racial, ethnic, and religious groups, etc.), who've agreed to be available to talk about their experiences at the school. This last probably isn't so applicable to public school (no admissions office to put it together), but that's what this list is for!

    My impression from friends with school-age kids in the East Bay is you'll do fine (and not be alone) at pretty much any public or private school around here. Good luck!

    Kids of GLBT: Where do they go to School?

    April 2005

    We are lesbian parents of 2 kids (one a preschooler) and are starting to look into schools. Are there schools that glbt parents tend to send their kids? Are there any that don't cost more than my college education? Our daughter attends a preschool where everyone is very gay positive but she is really starting to get bummed that her family is different than the other kids and we would like her to ''not be the only one''.


  • Aurora School
  • Black Pine Circle
  • Oxford Elementary School
  • Thousand Oaks Elementary School
  • Walden School

    Other advice:

    We are a lesbian couple living in El Cerrito and have found our neighborhood public school to be welcoming to ALL families. The teachers are excellent and my child's closest friends all live in the neighborhood, most are within walking distance.

    I would assume that most public or private schools in the East Bay would welcome a family like yours and you are more than likely to find at least one or two gay/lesbian families at any given school.

    I have been very fortunate because my kid's friends have nice parents who are very cool. I have also gotten to know a great many wonderful parents who are active/involved in the school. As far as I know, almost all of them are straight.

    Also, please keep in mind that all schools have good/bad stuff about them and a lot of ''experts'' will try to tell you that you should look for a school that will be the perfect match for your child's temperament/learning style/interests. Often these schools come with a hefty price tag or they tend to be the public school with the highest test scores and the longest waiting list. It puts a lot of pressure on parents who agonize over making the right choice. The truth is that with supportive loving parents, most children thrive in almost any school.

    BTW, we also attend the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley. It is a welcoming congregation so our children are getting a fair amount of exposure to gay families while they attend Sunday school.

    Best of luck with your search!

    Gay Friendly Private Schools

    Feb 2005

    We are in the process of applying to kindergartens for our son. Every school we look at claims to have diversity in family structures but its not always evident. Does anyone have feedback on the environment for gay families at Aurora, Black Pine Circle, Berkeley Montessori, Bentley or Redwood Day? mom of pre-schooler


  • Aurora (2)
  • Park Day School
  • Redwood Day School
  • St. Paul's Episcopal School
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