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Gary Younge
New York to open gay high school

The Harvey Milk High School, named after San Fransisco's first openly gay supervisor who was assassinated in 1978, will enrol about 100 students this autumn in a newly renovated building in Greenwich Village.

The new school's principal, William Salzman, said its curriculum will be academically challenging for the 14- to 18-year-olds, and will follow mandatory English and maths courses while specialising in computer technology, arts and cookery.

"This school will be a model for the country and possibly the world," said Mr Salzman, a former Wall Street executive. "We intend to have 95% of our students go on to college. We want to steer these kids in the right direction."

The school is supported by New York's republican mayor, Michael Bloomberg. "I think everybody feels that it's a good idea because some of the kids who are gays and lesbians have been constantly harassed and beaten in other schools," he said yesterday. "It lets them get an education without having to worry."

The number of hate crimes against gays and lesbians almost doubled in America between 1992 and 2002.

But establishment of the school drew criticism from rightwingers, who believe a separate school is unnecessary and a waste of taxpayers' money.

"Is there a different way to teach homosexuals?" asked New York's conservative party chairman, Mike Long. "Is there gay math? This is wrong. What next? Maybe we should have schools for chubby kids who get picked on."

The school will be an expansion on a 19-year-old alternative public school programme previously limited to just two classrooms.

That programme was founded by the Hetrick-Martin Institute, a gay rights youth advocacy group, which will continue to play a leading role in the new school.

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