Classes open at gay high school
By Rose Arce
Louisa McBee, 23, graduated from The Harvey Milk School in New York after dropping out of one high school because of taunts and threats.
NEW YORK (CNN) -- A newly expanded gay-themed high school began the school year Monday with about 100 students attending classes, about 200 supporters rallying outside and a small band of protesters demonstrating against it.
Since 1985, Harvey Milk High School has served students who are gay or believed to be gay, but its recent expansion to 100 students sparked criticism from conservative groups.
Application to the school is voluntary. Teens are admitted regardless of sexual orientation, but must show they are at risk of dropping out because of harassment.
The school, located in Manhattan's East Village, has a 95 percent graduation rate. With its expansion, it will be run like other alternative high schools in the city.
Small protest outside
About 10 protesters, led by stridently anti-gay Kansas minister Fred Phelps, demonstrated across the street from the school and screamed at supporters to repent for their "sodomite behavior." Phelps is best known for picketing the funerals of gay men, including the service for Matthew Shepard, a gay Wyoming college student beaten to death.
The Hetrick-Martin Institute, which studies gay youth, helps operate the school. The institute says nearly all gay teens are repeatedly harassed at school and are three times more likely to drop out or commit suicide than other youths.
The school is named after San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official of a major U.S. city. Milk was assassinated along with Mayor George Moscone in 1978.