Report: US Taxpayers Are Funding Private Schools Promoting ‘Conversion Therapy’
According to HuffPost, millions of dollars are going to religious schools in voucher programs “that list ‘counseling’ as discipline for LGBTQ students.”
- Calvary Christian Academy in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is one of at least nine private schools that “participate in voucher or tax credit programs” to make LGBTQ students “attend a form of conversion therapy,” reported HuffPost.
- A 2017 HuffPost investigation found that at least 14 percent of religious schools in voucher programs “advertised anti-gay policies or barred LGBTQ students and staff from admission and employment.”
Now, HuffPost revealed that “some of these schools go so far as to push a medically discredited and often harmful treatment on their students in an attempt to change their sexual orientation.”
Calvary Christian Academy received over $3 million in public funding through a variety of state voucher and tax credit programs that help funnel taxpayer dollars to scholarships for private schools, HuffPost wrote. “Voucher programs use taxpayer money to fund scholarships for lower- or middle-income students, while tax credit programs give individuals and corporations incentives for donating to organizations that distribute private school scholarships.”
HuffPost’s findings raised questions about “what it means to have taxpayer dollars supporting institutions that not only openly discriminate against LGBTQ children but also push them toward programs that have long been debunked by mainstream medical and mental health institutions, and often cause severe harm.”
A 2018 study found that LGBTQ people who received interventions from religious leaders, therapists, and parents trying to change their sexual orientation were “three times more likely to attempt suicide than other LGBTQ people,” HuffPost reported.
“Schools are places where youth should feel safe and have the opportunity to grow and mature into their best selves. Instead, they find themselves under threat from a practice that has no basis in science and is tied to potentially significant harms,” said Casey Pick, senior fellow for advocacy and government affairs at the Trevor Project, a nonprofit focused on suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has been using her position to try to increase the number of public dollars going to private schools.
- DeVos has had more success during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to HuffPost. “A new program allows states to apply for federal coronavirus relief dollars to help families cover school expenses ranging from technology services to private school tuition.”
- “Public school advocates say it’s part of DeVos’s larger agenda to shift funding away from the public school system ― which serves 90% of kids in the country ― to private, often religious, institutions,” the report continued.
Students at private schools have spoken up about their experiences with religious intervention and more specifically, conversion therapy.
- Megan Mishkin, who was a student at Calvary Christian Academy at the time, said she “felt defeated.” The report wrote that school administrators “reminded her they believe the Bible says homosexuality is wrong. Then they told her she would have to attend counseling to discuss her sexuality if she wanted to remain enrolled at Calvary Christian Academy.”
- Another student named Andrew LaFontaine, who attended the same school as Mishkin at the same time, said school administrators also pressured him to attend conversion therapy “after he reported to them that he had been sexually harrassed by another male student,” HuffPost wrote. “Instead of focusing on the trauma of the alleged harassment, they pushed him to attend counseling to talk about his sexual orientation, which they perceived to be a problem.”
“I honestly think that was the beginning of me spiraling into depression,” said LaFontaine, 20, who is now a veterinarian’s assistant and student in New York City. “It was an easy decision to decide to deny [my sexuality] because I knew the implications.”
A study from the Williams Institute at UCLA found that an estimated 16,000 youth will receive conversion therapy from a mental health professional before they turn 18. “An estimated 57,000 more will receive it from a religious” advisor, HuffPost added.
“It is not therapy. It is not helpful. It is harmful, and it needs to be stopped,” Pick from the Trevor Project said.
However, administrators at religious schools with anti-LGBTQ policies continue to maintain that they have a right to educate children “however they see fit,” HuffPost wrote.
“Parents who choose to enroll their children in a private, Christian school using voucher funds have chosen to do so with full knowledge of the school’s positions regarding philosophy of education, admissions, biblical worldview integration into academics, morality, and positions on a variety of cultural topics including marriage and sexuality as defined in Scripture,” Wesley Scott, executive director of the National Alliance of Christian Schools, wrote in an email to HuffPost.
“Private, Christian schools are autonomous [and] have the right to apply these positions within their admissions process, faculty and student handbooks, disciplinary and biblical counseling procedures,” he said.