February 3, 2005
A recent article published in New York Magazine, "The Harvey Milk High School Has No Right To Exist. Discuss.," erroneously positioned our partner organization (The Harvey Milk High School) as an organization balanced precariously between a legal challenge trying to shut it down and an administration not sure it was worth supporting.
In the real world, The Harvey Milk High School and The Hetrick-Martin Institute stand together (as we have for 18 years) day in and day out, strongly supported by New York City's Department of Education and challenging young people to achieve their dreams despite overwhelming obstacles. Our time is dedicated to responding to the desperate needs of our young people while others debate our existence.
Below is our letter to the editor-in-chief of New York Magazine, Mr. Adam Moss:
Dear Mr. Moss:
As John Colapinto correctly points out in his February 7, 2004 article, “The Harvey Milk School Has No Right to Exist. Discuss., ” it was “with the greatest trepidation” that we agreed to provide New York Magazine with access to Harvey Milk High School students, faculty and staff. So many sensationalized articles have already been written about whether or not our school has the right to exist that we view any approach with caution. Unfortunately, what was initially pitched to us as a story that would finally go beyond the sensationalist headlines and controversy to focus on the day-to-day lives of our students and the challenges they face turned out to be yet more of the same.
Beyond the numerous factual inaccuracies contained in the article – we do not have “Eighteen spanking-new glass-walled classrooms,” but rather seven classrooms with windows – what we found most disturbing was the reporter’s attempt to question the Department of Education’s (DOE) ongoing support for the school. Colapinto’s suggestion that the DOE’s reticence to comment on the lawsuit and the reduced funding that resulted from our decision to maintain a smaller student body than originally anticipated are “ominous” signs of a rift is simply untrue. The DOE is the only public school administration in the country that has recognized the severity of the issues faced by at-risk youth, some of whom are gay and lesbian, and, to the best of our knowledge, continues to support the right of all New York City children to receive an education in a safe environment.
Somehow, in his exhaustive coverage of the debate that certain ivory tower intellectuals, conservative evangelists and even some gay activists have the luxury to engage in, Colapinto missed the main point. While our detractors stand on the sidelines, filing lawsuits and engaging in solipsistic hand-wringing about the constitutionality of our existence, we are providing some of the city’s most marginalized and underserved youth with an education and, in many cases , hot meals, counseling and referrals to homeless shelters and medical care. Day in and day out, as our agency has for the past 25 years, we are working against the odds to provide these kids and young adults with a future that holds more than prostitution, homelessness and death. Can Professor Jonathan Turley or Senator Ruben Diaz say the same? And does Senator Diaz really believe that $3.2 million spread evenly across the city’s 1.1 million public school students will make an appreciable difference in anyone’s academic experience?
We at HMI look forward to the day when our services are no longer necessary; when at-risk youth live and flourish in the world; when their survival is not in jeopardy but instead the world embraces them fully and unequivocally. Until that time, we will continue to fight on their behalf to receive access to the same opportunities that most other young people take for granted as the most basic of rights.
Executive Director, The Hetrick-Martin Institute
Cc: John Colapinto
Link to the article:http://www.newyorkmetro.com/nymetro/news/features/10970/index.html
(Also, please note that any student who wishes to attend HMI or HMHS is welcomed, regardless of their sexual orientation.)