NYC's Harvey Milk High School for LGBT Students Struggles to Maintain Enrollment Numbers

Correction appended

A New York City academic institution that gained headlines 10 years ago for being the first LGBT-centered public school has been struggling to maintain enrollment expectations.

Harvey Milk High School of Manhattan, a small transfer school that became a fully accredited public school in 2003, was expected upon its opening to enroll 100 students.

Despite initially making and passing that enrollment goal for its first academic year, subsequent enrollment years have seen numbers fall below the 100-student mark.

According to data found at, by 2005 the number of students at Harvey Milk High dropped to 83, and by 2006 the population fell to nearly half its original enrollment at 64.

While from 2007 to 2010 the number increased back to the 90s, by 2011 it went down to 74. For the 2012-2013 academic year, New York City's Department of Education found enrollment to be at 69.

As of Thursday, the high school's webpage placed student enrollment at 72 for grades nine through 12, as well as for special education courses.

Named for the openly gay San Francisco supervisor who was assassinated in 1978, Harvey Milk High School traced its existence back to 1985 as a project of the Hetrick-Martin Institute.

Harvey Milk High became a fully accredited public school in 2003 through the work of the New York City Department of Education and Hetrick-Martin.

Allen Cohen, communications director for Hetrick-Martin, told The Christian Post what the role of his organization was regarding Harvey Milk High.

"HMI is considered 'the landlord' or host-agency of Harvey Milk High School," explained Cohen.

"We manage the school facility and use it for after-school programs and supportive services; the New York City Department of Education operates the school and determines its protocol."

Harvey Milk High bills itself as a transfer school meant to provide a safe environment for students who experienced bullying over their sexual orientation or gender identity.

"The school strives to provide all students with a rigorous academic experience for college and career readiness that emphasizes critical thinking skills and student collaboration," reads their mission statement.

"This nurturing educational setting at HMHS not only challenges and promotes academic success, but it also fosters and supports a diverse, self-respecting, confident community."

Enrollment is voluntary and open to high school-aged students regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Upon the announcement that the school would open in fall 2003, the project garnered much controversy over being a gay-centered public facility.

Mike Long of New York's Conservative Party critically asked, "Is there a different way to teach homosexuals?"

"Is there gay math? This is wrong. What next? Maybe we should have schools for chubby kids who get picked on," said Long in 2003, reported the Guardian.

Harvey Milk High also had its critics from more sympathetic sources, such as the New York Times opinion section.

"A school like Harvey Milk could also serve as a safe haven and short-term solution for gay teenagers and others who are most traumatized by mistreatment at their schools," wrote the Times.

"In the long term, though, history has taught us the best way to fight discrimination is to dismantle it where it occurs."

Harvey Milk High is accepting applications for its spring semester.

Correction: January 3, 2014:

An article on January 2, 2014, incorrectly stated that Harvey Milk was mayor of San Francisco. Milk was on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and was only unofficially known as the "Mayor of Castro Street."

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