Milwaukee Public Middle School a Haven for Gay Youth


Alliance School Stays Open Despite Criticism

According to Eliza Byard, Executive Director of the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN), schools like Alliance are only a Band-Aid solution to a tremendously urgent problem, but tackling the problem in any way does make a difference. "What we have seen is, when you take on the issue of anti-LGBT harassment and bullying, you see better results for students," said Byard. To critics who argue that schools like Alliance are indoctrinating students with the gay agenda, Eliza responded, "This is about letting students go to school and be safe."

But Finn Laursen, Executive Director at Christian Educators Association International, said he did not want schools telling students that homosexuality was acceptable. "It isn't the school's job to try to teach children that 'this lifestyle is good, that lifestyle is better,'" he said.

The controversy is nothing new to The Alliance School. It has had its share of critics and setbacks. When the school faced the possibility of losing its charter, lead teacher Owen said the school was "life or death for some of these kids." Students from the school pleaded in front of their local school board to keep Alliance open. "If you take away this school from us, you're not taking away a school. You're taking away a home," said Emiliano.

The board agreed to keep the school open for at least three more years amid cheers and applause from students and teachers. It's a victory for kids like Emiliano, who, like Jamie Rodemeyer, adores Lady Gaga. His bedroom is plastered with her pictures.

Emiliano says gone are the days of dreading going to school. "I was always known at my old school as the kid that laughed at everything. People always make fun of me for that. I would laugh so much. But here people just laugh with me, not at me," he said.

Jamey Rodemeyer might well have thrived at The Alliance School. On Sept. 24 he was buried wearing a t-shirt saying "I was born this way."

Watch "20/20" tonight at 10 p.m. ET.

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