Great news! Thanks to pressure from students, the Ontario government has announced that all schools receiving public funding, including Catholic schools, must allow GLBT support groups starting this September.
“The choice to have an LGBTQ group will be the choice of students, not the choice of principals and school boards,” MPP Glen Murray announced to the press on Friday. “If the students want to have a specifically dedicated group to supporting gay and lesbian and transgendered youth, they will have one.”
GLBT support groups, such as Gay-Straight Alliances, have a proven track record of improving student safety, but Catholic schools have been fighting their formation for years. What started off as a blanket ban (a strategy that became increasingly difficult to justify as evidence of these groups’ benefits became clear), eventually turned into a kind of hijacking by Catholic administrations. Whenever a group was requested by students, it would instead be directed into strange, generic support group. Such groups would be identified as promoting diversity and being all-inclusive, but whenever issues facing gay students were brought up, discussion was halted by administration for not being “inclusive” enough—focusing on a specific segment of the student population.
With Friday’s announcement, the Ontario government has made it clear that students will get exactly the kind of peer support they need, and that the Catholic boards’ nonsense will no longer be tolerated.
Having gone through the Catholic school system for my entire grade school education, I’m thrilled! Starting this year, you’ll be getting the kind of support that I never had. Congratulations on this important step, and keep up the good fight!
Correction: In the original post, I suggested that the government’s announcement would mandate the formation of GSAs, but the announcement really only mentioned “LGBT support groups.” Regardless of the title, I take this to mean explicit support for LGBT students, and not generic anti-bullying groups (otherwise what would have been the purpose of the government’s clarification on their policy last Friday?). To me, the timing and strong wording of the announcement is a stern response to recent nonsense from the Catholic boards, but in the interest of full disclosure, until the government explicitly uses the term Gay-Straight Alliance, some people are still skeptical. Either way, the government is pushing for help. Here’s hoping all will be clarified this September!