In Connecticut, United States, a new private school is set to open its doors this September, providing a safe and affirming environment for LGBTQ+ students. Proud Academy, founded by Patricia Nicolari, aims to create a rigorous curriculum for all students, free from bullying and harassment.
The school, which plans to support diversity in all its forms including sexuality, gender identity, race, and disability, among others, will provide a haven for students who want a safe and accepting space to learn. The need for such a school is “escalating” as the political rhetoric towards LGBTQ+ people in the United States becomes increasingly hostile, according to Nicolari.
Nicolari, who came out as a lesbian while teaching in 1997, was motivated to open Proud Academy after experiencing harassment first-hand as a teacher and feeling unsafe to “come out.” The academy has received positive reactions so far, with inquiries coming in from both LGBTQ+ students and allies, as well as families from other states who are considering relocating to enroll their children in the school.
Despite the positive responses, Nicolari is aware of the potential for backlash from people who do not align with the school’s political views. “We’re ready for the storm,” she says, referring to the controversy faced by other LGBTQ+ ally schools in the United States. However, Nicolari wants people to understand that they are “providing a safe space for students who want to come to PROUD.”
Proud Academy has already signed a partnership agreement with four other explicitly LGBTQ+ ally schools in the United States, including the Harvey Milk High School in New York. This partnership aims to empower students across the five schools to develop an LGBTQ+ resource guide for families, to help them make the best decisions for their children and to provide a safe and affirming environment for all. A site for the school has not yet been secured but Nicolari is confident that “a number of options are available” to make Proud Academy a reality for the upcoming school year.