Pride School Atlanta shuts down as enrollment dwindles

Pride School Atlanta, Georgia’s first school for LGBTQ and allied students, has closed after two years, and school officials are asking for donations “to meet our close-out financial obligations.”

A note from Christian Zsilavetz, the transgender educator who founded the school, was posted to Pride School's website. It suggested the school's small enrollment and the difficult logistics of serving students outside metro Atlanta played a role in its closure.

“As some of you may already be aware, the era of Pride School Atlanta, Inc. has come to a close,” Zsilavetz's statement said. “Some may find it sad that we are closing our operations as an organization and school, but we have done great work all around the world thanks to all of you.”

“In good conscience, we have been working diligently to pay off our final bills by selling and donating our inventory to Title I schools and home-school groups and families. Our offices are now completely closed,” Zsilavetz added.

The school opened in 2016 with eight students and that number dropped to five a year later.

"By Summer 2017, several of our students had moved back to public school, a few had moved away, some had bigger fish to fry than full-time school, and we were down to 5 students. While we served about 17 students and their families in our brick and mortar school, our organization has empowered hundreds of youth, educators, families, and organizations all around the world in our efforts to make this world a kinder place for LGBTQQIA & Ally people wherever they go," Zsilavetz said in the statement.

Zsilavetz came up with the idea for Pride School after moving to Georgia for a teaching job. Zsilavetz was told by a superior that it wouldn’t be best for him to be out as trans to the staff and school.

“I told her that my dream school would be where my trans and queer identities would be honored and an important part of my ability to be the best teacher, mentor and advocate I could be for LGBTQQIA students and their families,” Zsilavetz told Project Q Atlanta in 2015. “She said, ‘Why don’t you go ahead and start that school?’”

The school opened in August 2016 at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta in the North Druid Hills area.

Pride School was a finalist for the Guardian Angel Award at the Atlanta Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce Community Awards Dinner in 2017.

In February 2018, queer state Rep. Park Cannon sponsored a resolution commending the school.

“Whereas, since the opening of Pride School Atlanta, Inc., in August 2016, the school has provided a safe and affirming educational home to 17 students in a multi-age school that is free of homophobia and transphobia, as well as a place of employment for LGBTQ and ally educators who encourage authenticity in their interactions with students, parents and with each other,” the resolution said.

Read Pride School’s full goodbye note is below:

Pride School Atlanta Has Closed Its Doors 

As some of you may already be aware, the era of Pride School Atlanta, Inc. has come to a close. Some may find it sad that we are closing our operations as an organization and school, but we have done great work all around the world thanks to all of you. 

In good conscience, we have been working diligently to pay off our final bills by selling and donating our inventory to Title I schools and home-school groups and families. Our offices are now completely closed. We appreciate all final donations to meet our close-out financial obligations — any amount helps. If donations exceed our commitments, we will direct them back to another small local LGBTQIA non-profit.

Additionally, all of our donate buttons on our website and social media were removed at the first of August. Donations to help us close out operations may be made by check to:
Pride School Atlanta, Inc. 

2277 Eastway Rd
Decatur, GA 30033
or via PayPal to [email protected]

Why have we closed? Our objective was to create an environment that was a safe space for LGBTQIA & ally students, educators, and families to be themselves and have a full seat at the educational table. While this has not been achieved everywhere, there are many schools, learning communities, and school systems in Metro Atlanta that have made dramatic changes to policies to be more inclusive. Secondly, those school systems, mostly outside of Metro Atlanta, that have not made these changes are where most of the students who still need us reside, making it logistically impossible to serve those students. Even our best efforts to meet their needs still create both travel and financial hardship, and that is not our intent.

Although we are closing our doors, it is not without success while we were open. After two years of networking, media appearances, fundraising and planning, we opened our small school in Fall 2016 with eight students, most of whom were teenagers. It was a year filled with learning, growing, drama, peace, love, laughter, support, new friendships, goodbyes, and most of all, PRIDE. It was imperfect, yet just as it should be on any particular day ... but we know we saved lives.

By Summer 2017, several of our students had moved back to public school, a few had moved away, some had bigger fish to fry than full-time school, and we were down to 5 students. While we served about 17 students and their families in our brick and mortar school, our organization has empowered hundreds of youth, educators, families, and organizations all around the world in our efforts to make this world a kinder place for LGBTQQIA & Ally people wherever they go.

Our organization has run its course, but our impact will be long lasting, thanks to all of you and those with whom you have connected to us over the last four years.

All of us at Pride School Atlanta, Inc. stand firmly in our belief that EVERY person deserves to be treated with respect, kindness, and affirmation of their best self.  While many schools in Atlanta are welcoming to LGBQA youth, parents, and educators, most in the area are not as forward thinking when it comes to intersex, transgender and non-binary students, parents, and staff. Thus there is much education and advocacy work to be done here and far away from Atlanta, too.

This organization is closing, but you will see us around the community for sure! Each of us in continuing to do great work in and for our country's LGBTQQIA & Ally youth, educators and families. To reach either Christian or Lisa for consult, speaking or educational opportunities, take a look at the following messages from each of them.

I thank all of you who have made my life what it is today. I never could have dreamed 12 years ago that others would give me the courage to stand proudly as a queer transgender educator in support of all LGBTQIA and ally youth, educator, and families as they seek a full place at the educational table in Georgia and around the world.

There are many people who are not specifically mentioned in this letter, including YOU, but I hope you realize that you've changed the world.

When we started this venture of creating a small school that would be free of homophobia and transphobia back in 2014, we could never have imagined the impact our little organization would have on us, our families, your families, and complete strangers all around the globe. With the hearts, hands, voices, and donations of hundreds of amazing people like yourself, most of whom are allies to the LGBTQIA community, we were able to do something that has never before been done in the South.

We ALL created a school where those students who are most vulnerable would be free to be themselves, find themselves, and find their people, all while not having to fight for basic human rights like using the restroom or showing affection for a same gender partner.

Supported by veteran educators, students could be in charge of their education, learn at their own pace, and take required and favorite standards-based courses. Staff, students, and parents alike would come together to make impactful contributions and establish authentic relationships with peers and staff.

I will be continuing to support LGBTQIA youth, educators, and families around the state and beyond as a connector, advocate, and public speaker. As many of you know, I have a passion for transgender issues and am continuing to join more families, educators, and activists in the fight for rights for transgender, non-binary, and gender expansive youth and adults. Please don't hesitate to reach out to me as a resource and advocate for students and families who are still struggling for equal and fair treatment in education. 

Project Q contacted Zsilavetz for more information about the closing and will update this post if we receive a response.