The Ontario Ministry of Education has long recommended that all schools offer student-run Gay-Straight Alliances. GSAs intend to improve the lives of GLBT students, giving them positive role models, and offering a safe respite from bullying. Their benefits are also well-documented; schools with GSAs have a demonstrably lower incidence of teen suicide.
The tax-funded Catholic school boards are certainly no exception to this recommendation, but they’ve been a strangely dedicated source of resistance. In fact, not a single Catholic school in Ontario has a GSA—and students that have tried to form one have either had it shut down, or hijacked and transformed into a different kind of club altogether. It’s this latter strategy that’s becoming the norm.
That’s why, in July, I was encouraged by the Ontario government’s announcement that school boards and principals would have no say over how GSAs are run in the province. “If the students want to have a specifically dedicated group to supporting gay and lesbian and transgendered youth, they will have one,” MPP Glen Murray announced to the press. That was during the height of election campaigning, and now that the McGuinty government has been re-elected, it’s time to take a look at the progress that’s been made.
It doesn’t look good.
The Peterborough Victoria Northumberland And Clarington Catholic District School Board (That’s PVNCCDSB, for you alphabetophiles who prefer GLBTTQQIAAP to GLBT) released a tax-funded pamphlet outlining their new equity policy last week. Under the policy, GLBT support is only available in broad-based Equity Clubs, and—in a pretty blatant affront to the Glen Murray’s promise last summer—they strategically de-emphasize issues that gay students face in an attempt to appear more diverse.
So, what would a gay student expect to get out of one of the PVNCCDSB’s new clubs covered by the policy? Here’s what the pamphlet has to say about students who are seeking support related to their sexual orientation:
The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.
This kind of condescension isn’t appreciated, even when it isn’t factually incorrect. But this particular resource is a rich tapestry of contradiction. As the pamphlet notes in a column directly beside the section calling gay people “objectively disordered,” the American Psychological Association removed homosexuality from its list of recognized disorders four decades ago.
This is not delivering the support that gay students need. As long as the Catholic school board in Ontario receives tax dollars from the province, it should not be free to disobey the scientifically-sound, and government-mandated recommendations from the Ministry of Education. So, now all eyes are on the McGuinty government. Was all their talk about requiring “specifically dedicated groups” in support of GLBT youth just an empty election promise? I’ll be waiting!
(Big hat tip goes to Ann, a concerned parent with children in the PVNCCDSB, for the story.)
- The Colour of Equity [PVNCCDSB Pamphlet]