There are plenty of reasons to oppose private school vouchers – they violate the separation of church and state, they siphon money away from our public schools (which educate 90 percent of America’s children) and they don’t deliver on their promises, to name just a few.
But if you need another reason, The Huffington Post has one for you: Some private religious schools espouse very controversial, even dangerous, ideas.
Reporter Rebecca Klein found that a number of private Christian academies taking part in state voucher programs don’t just preach anti-LGBTQ views, they go beyond that by advocating discredited forms of “conversion therapy.”
Also known as “reparative therapy,” conversion therapy attempts to force LGBTQ young people to change their sexual identities through a combination of fundamentalist religious activities and aversion techniques.
The mainstream medical community agrees that these therapies don’t work. Furthermore, they’re dangerous. A 2018 study found that LGBTQ youth who had been exposed to conversion therapy reported higher levels of depression and suicidal behavior and had lower levels of self-esteem than other LGBTQ young people. Twenty states and the District of Columbia have banned medical professionals from using conversion therapy on minors.
As part of its investigation, The Huffington Post examined handbooks, statements of faith and other documents from more than 500 schools that the news site had previously identified as having anti-LGBTQ policies. All of these schools are taking part in voucher plans. It found that at least eight schools have policies that require or encourage conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth – schools that collectively raked in about $8 million in taxpayer-funded vouchers in just one school year. Another four schools had vague policies that seemed to endorse it.
HuffPo noted that many more schools may force LGBTQ kids to submit to conversion therapy without explicitly saying so in their policies and handbooks. That was the case for Megan Mishkin, who as a teen in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was compelled to attend conversion therapy as a condition of remaining enrolled at Calvary Christian Academy, a school that has received millions under Florida’s voucher plan.
Mishkin got lucky. She tricked school officials by attending regular therapy while pretending to be learning how to be “un-gay.” She even lied and claimed to have been “cured” of being gay, all while planning to escape the academy by transferring to a secular private school. She now lives in New York City and attends New York University.
Other students aren’t so fortunate and have had to grapple with depression and other serious side effects from harmful conversion therapy.
That this happens is bad enough. Expecting taxpayers to subsidize it is unconscionable. It’s one of many reasons why Americans United and our allies at the National Coalition for Public Education oppose private school vouchers. Join us to help ensure no taxpayers are forced to fund private, religious schools that discriminate against LGBTQ children.