Parents Flip Out Over Teachers’ Safe Space Card

January 30th, 2012

A hypnotist waves a pendulum before an entranced man.

Two fifth grade teachers at West Park School in Altona, Manitoba are being demanded by parents to remove cards from their classrooms indicating that they have completed training on how to support GLBT youth.

Stephanie Fortier and Peter Wohlgemut had voluntarily taken training sessions from the Rainbow Resource Center in Winnipeg and received display cards that will let GLBT students know they have an adult to confide in, should they ever need their support. The cards, which feature a rainbow flag with the word “Ally” printed over it, include the following pledge:

As an Ally, I envision a society that embraces, values and celebrates diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions.

As an Ally, I support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, Two-Spirit, intersex, queer, and questioning individuals, families, and communities.

As an Ally, I work towards a more aware, affirming, safe and open work environment in both policy and practice.

As an Ally, I acknowledge that creating a safe space is an unwavering process that requires productive commitment, re-assessment, and dedication.

As an Ally, I am committed to the elimination of homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, and heterosexism as well as other forms of oppression.

I participated [in] a Rainbow Resource Centre LGBTT Ally Training session and completed ___ hours of training in the year.

A number of parents subsequently freaked out.

“We have to sign hundreds of petitions to allow religious exercises in school,” Kim Peters Sawatzky, a parent at the school, told the media. “We should treat this situation in the same way, as it seems to be just as controversial.”

School officials say they’ve had a “steady stream” of requests to remove the cards. So, in an attempt to diffuse the parental panic, they decided to take some scissors to the cards so that only the rainbow flag with the word “Ally” remains, excluding the text of the pledge entirely. Not good enough for several of the parents, though, who are still adamant that the cards be removed entirely.

“I would like to have the choice of how I choose to teach my children about these words and what they mean,” MS. Peters Sawatzky continued.

What? “Ally?” That’s the only word left on the card to explain.

Not that the card did anything to prevent anyone from inserting whichever wacky definitions one wishes for these terms. In fact, I offer this challenge to any parent upset by these cards: Take your child aside, sit him or her on your lap, and define the following word: Ally (n.): An edible alien garment, used exclusively by members of the Zerphblangipod society of emu-wranglers on the planet Earth 2, located, by coincidence, precisely 3.14159265 light years from the home of Ms. Peters Sawatzky of Altona, Manitoba.

If, after reading this definition, an Ally card flies off the wall of Ms. Fortier’s fifth grade classroom and shoots gamma radiation into your eyes, then I will bake you a cookie. Otherwise, kindly chill the heck out and let the teachers tell gay students they’ve got some support.