OK, kiddo! Here are all the fantastically amazing posts tagged with Catholic schools
I admit it. I jumped the gun with my Congratulalien last year. When the Ontario government announced that all schools—including Catholic schools—must allow the formation of student-run GLBT support groups, I took that to mean students would finally be getting Gay-Straight Alliances, a proven strategy to improve student safety and reduce instances of teen suicide due to bullying. Having endured twelve years of Catholic schooling myself, I perhaps should have been able to predict what happened instead. While students weren’t explicitly denied support groups, the Catholic school board forbade these groups from being called GSAs and continued to meddle with their direction. When students requested a GSA, they were forced to accept a strange replacement—generic support groups where any discussion of gay issues would be ostensibly halted as being not inclusive enough.
Last week, after substantial pressure (and a tad more controversy than I’d expect in this decade), the Ontario government introduced a bill that unambiguously mandates GSAs in any school where students request one. That includes the name and direction that it implies. With all indications pointing toward a speedy passage, I hope that I’m not premature in issuing a most sincere Condraculations!
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]
The Coptic Orthodox Church has threatened to somehow withdraw 5000 schoolchildren from the Toronto Catholic District School Board unless the board scraps its plans to implement the government’s required tolerance and anti-homophobia policies.
Jeremiah Attaalla, a spokesperson for the sect, explained the bizarre hostage tactics to the press. “In these young grades, we don’t want teachers talking about God creating Adam and Steve; it’s Adam and Eve.”
A gross mischaracterization and a cliché all rolled into one. Impressive!
Indeed, schools adhereing to the new equity policy will not be “teaching homosexuality” as Attalla fears, since inherent traits like that can’t be taught or learned. Rather it’s about improving student life through programs proven to reduce bullying, such as gay-straight alliances.
Of course, Attaalla isn’t pleased about this prospect either. “Our members do not want gay-straight alliance groups in our Catholic schools,” he said. A strangely un-Catholic stance, since these programs have demonstrated a reduction in student distress, physical violence, and suicide.
Thankfully, it’s tough luck for Attaalla, because the Ontario government recently clarified that all decisions regarding whether or not to form LGBT support groups in publicly-funded schools rests solely with the students. The same students that he presumes to speak for.
Of course, there is another option. “We are a rich church,” Attaala continued, “so we’ll fund a new school if we have to.”
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!
The Burnaby School Board unanimously adopted its anti-homophobia policy last week, after months of debating and church-organized protests. A crowd of about 400 students and supporters cheered outside the Burnaby School Board offices when Kaitlin Burnett, a supporter of the policy, emerged to announce its passage.
The new policy means that public schools in the region will be made safer for any student who is—or is perceived to be—gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, the Toronto Catholic School Board introduced several new, gay-unfriendly amendments to its equity policy. Included among them is one that explicitly enshrines the board’s religious doctrine as taking “precedence over human rights protections,” and another that states the board will “approve only clubs which have goals that are not inconsistent with Catholic faith and the Catholic Church’s moral and doctrinal teachings” (which, in Catholic-speak, is a direct strike at the growing support for Gay-Straight Alliances in their schools—important peer support groups statistically shown to reduce bullying and increase student safety).
Having spent my entire grade school education in the Catholic system, I can vouch that it’s survivable—in the same way that Vegemite is a breakfast condiment—but things could be improved, particularly since these schools are tax funded. Until that’s no longer the case, I foresee a difficult road ahead for these sorts of amendments. What might seem like a step backwards now, could be the final straw and signal the end of this kind of nonsense for good!
An unofficial Gay-Straight Alliance at St Joseph Catholic Secondary School in Mississauga, Ontario has been forbidden from displaying any rainbows at their information booth.
The school board had already banned official Gay-Straight Alliances—important peer support groups to help reduce incidences of bullying—in their schools (thus the “unofficial” nature of this group), but apparently that didn’t go far enough. “They said rainbows were associated with Pride,” Leanne Iskander, who founded the GSA, told Xtra this week. “There’s so many other things a rainbow could be. It’s ridiculous.”
Nevertheless, the group managed to sneak in some hidden rainbows by baking cupcakes with batter in all of the rainbow’s colours. They weren’t allowed to donate the proceeds to GLBT charities like LGBT Youth Line, mind you. Instead they were forced to choose a Catholic charity. (Thankfully not Exodus, an “ex-gay” organisation which is still a registered charity in Canada, cough sign-the-petition cough, cough.)
At any rate, congratulations to Leanne and the amazing GSA! Despite the artificial and ridiculous hurdles being tossed in your way by a terrified school board, you guys rock. Keep it up!
Jan Buterman, a transgender substitute teacher, was fired from the St. Albert Catholic School Board back in 2009 for, well, being transgendered. “Since you made a personal choice to change your gender,” a termination letter delivered to Buterman stated, “we have to remove you from the substitute teacher list.”
Jan didn’t take this lightly, as you might imagine. Under threat of civil action, the school board has since offered a substantial settlement to avoid bringing the case to the courts or human rights tribunals. Included with the settlement, however, was a confidentiality agreement which would have forbidden Buterman to speak about his firing and the circumstances surrounding it.
Money in exchange for shutting up, eh? I wouldn’t have thought that was consistent with Catholic teachings, but there you go. I spent my entire grade school education within this very school board and they’re still teaching me new things. (Go, uh, Skyhawks, was it?)
Anyway, if it’s not already obvious by the mere fact we’re hearing this story, Jan is sticking to his principles and has soundly rejected the muzzling settlement. As a prominent trans activist, he said, it would be unacceptable to not be able to speak about the injustices people like him face.
It’s expected that Jan will now be off to the Alberta human rights commission next to have his case heard. Alberta’s human rights legislation is a little iffy in this area, as trans rights are not explicitly protected, so something tells me this won’t be the last time this story is featured on this site. Stay tuned!
Catholic schools in Ontario are continuing to fight gay-straight alliances from forming, despite pleas from students to allow them.
GSAs are an effective means of reducing homophobic bullying, improving student safety and decreasing the number of gay teen suicides. For this reason, the Ontario Ministry of Education has strongly recommended that all publicly funded schools include GSAs if the students request one. This recommendation is meant to include the Catholic school system which, despite being a religious organisation, is still publicly funded.
Understanding that outright bans on GSAs generate bad press, however, Catholic schools have begun adopting a new strategy to avoid acknowledging their GLBT students. When requested by students to allow the formation of a GSA, these schools launch a replacement club: One that teaches about all kinds of tolerance and diversity instead of focusing on gay issues.
Gosh that sounds just lovely and—RUN, KIDS! It’s a trap!
You see, rather than accept the most effective means to increase student safety for GLBT students, these ostensibly inclusive groups just re-enforce the discrimination that makes gay students feel so isolated in the first place.
At a GSA meeting in Mississauga, for example, the school’s principal entered unexpectedly and drew a big umbrella on the chalkboard to indicate that their club will have to talk about issues that affect everyone instead of homophobia, effectively silencing the entire school’s GLBT student body. Separately, and more troublingly, training documents for the Halton Catholic School Board’s new GSA replacement called “SIDE spaces,” declares that “gay is not an identity,” and that gay students are “immoral and sinful.”
Most of these kinds of stories aren’t even making it to the media. I’ve now received several emails from students across the country who have had their requests for a GSA turned down. An email I received just yesterday from an Ontario student highlights exactly the same sort of ineffective replacement club that these schools are foisting upon students to silence them:
Our school’s nun decided to be our [GSA] leader, but we had to change the name of the group to be inclusive of all aspects of discrimination.
Project CAT (Project Creating Awareness Together) was what our GSA became. That would have been totally fine with me, had it not been obvious that we weren’t to speak too much about homophobia in the group.
SIDE spaces, Project CAT, and large umbrellas. I could be greatly mistaken here, but something tells me this isn’t quite what the students had in mind when they requested the formation of a GSA.
The good news, though, is that students are fighting for safety, visibility, and inclusion. I like the way that Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, the program director for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, put it: “This issue is not going away,” she told the Halton Catholic School Board during their April 5th board meeting. “Students are empowered. Students know their rights. Students want gay-positive groups in their schools, and they will fight for them.”
Students are already proving Noa right. So, if you’re hoping to get a GSA formed in your school, keep fighting for it! Government organisations such as the Ontario Ministry of Education is on your side, and as long as you guys know your rights and keep up the pressure, these schools will eventually have to comply with their recommendations if they want to keep their public funding.
None of the 29 Catholic schools in Ontario have a Gay-Straight Alliance or similar support program for gay youth, according to an investigation by Xtra.
GSAs are recommended by the Ontario Ministry of Education as a means of offering support to gay students, who are frequently victimized by homophobic bullying. The publicly-funded Catholic school boards, however, have chosen to ignore this recommendation along with the needs of their students.
While school board officials deny there is a ban, some were very clear as to whether a GSA would be allowed to form in their district. “The answer would be no,” declared the superintendent of education for the Bruce-Grey Catholic District School Board.
Well, that sounds an awful lot like a ban to me.
Julien McArdle—a young activist from Gloucester, Ontario—agrees. He started an online petition earlier this month to help catch the attention of school board officials and turn up the pressure.
And if that doesn’t work, students can always request the formation of Greek Salad Aficionado clubs. Only 48% of the bishops find feta cheese morally offensive.
The Halton Catholic School Board received a lot of flack this year over banning Gay-Straight Alliances—important peer support systems—in their school system. “We don’t have Nazi groups either,” a representative told the media back in January.
Gay-Straight Alliances are recommended by the Ontario Ministry of Education as a proven means of improving the life of gay youth, giving closeted teens visible role models and support, helping to eliminate homophobic bullying, and reducing instances of teen suicide.
The successes of GSAs made the Halton board’s GSA ban particularly difficult to justify. Faced with a lot of negative media attention over this and its “Nazi” remark, the Halton school board soon announced that they would be introducing a new policy.
Well, that new policy is here. On Wednesday, by a 6 – 3 vote, the school board has re-banned GSAs.
In lieu of GSAs, though, they’ve decided to set up SIDE spaces, a quickly conceived backronym that stands for Safety, Inclusivity, Diversity, and Equity. Essentially, SIDE spaces are support groups designated as safe for everyone, not just gay students.
Now, encouraging safety, inclusivity, diversity, and equity is very important, of course; all schools should do that. But let’s not lose sight of the issue here. SIDE spaces are a solution to a different problem. For a support group to be at all effective, it requires peers facing similar—if not identical—issues. Generic “everyone’s welcome!” support groups are not only an ill replacement for GSAs, they were created expressly to make a ban on GSAs more palatable by offering a substitute that ostensibly includes gay students without the visibility. Denying this visibility sends a message that GLBT students should stay hidden, and denies a place where GLBT students can discuss issues specific to them among peers who are guaranteed to be receptive.
So Boo on the Halton Catholic School Board for completely SIDE-stepping the issue.
Gay-Straight Alliances—student-run support groups—are recommended by the Ontario Ministry of Education and the American Psychological Association to provide visible support to gay youth, encourage safer schools, and help curb recent gay teen suicides. The Halton Catholic School District School Board isn’t too fond of them, however. They’ve forbidden the formation of GSAs in their schools.
Alice Anne LeMay, chair of the Catholic school board, explained the ban bluntly: “We don’t have Nazi groups either,” she told the press. “If a gay student requests a gay-straight alliance they would be denied.”
I wonder, what must it be like to play word associations with Ms. LeMay?
Me: Same-sex mar—
LeMay: (bursts into song) It’s Springtiiiime for Hiiitler and Geeermany!
All this aside… To the students in the Halton Catholic School District, I’m sorry to hear about your exceptionally stupid administration, but things will improve. Keep up the good fight; you’re not alone.
A Vancouver music teacher has been suspended from teaching at a Catholic high school after parents found out that she was a lesbian, according to a news release from the Pride Education Network this week.
Lisa Reimer had taken some time off to celebrate the birth of her first child with her partner. When she returned, she was told that all her music classes had been cancelled and that the remainder of her contract with the school would be spent grading papers from home. The principal noted that while the school administration was confident in Ms. Reimer’s teaching ability, many parents were concerned about her “potential influence” on students. (All gay music teachers, of course, posses a powerful Pied Piper magic that, if gone unchecked, will lead students directly into the river Gay.)
While Little Flower Academy is a Catholic school, it receives public funding and is thereby subject to Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, protecting staff against employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. The school was quick to emphasize that they didn’t actually fire Ms. Reimer, but there are ways to discriminate other than just firing someone. Right?
Sacred Heart of Jesus, a Catholic school in Boulder, Colorado, has kicked out a student after a year of preschool for having lesbian parents.
While an anonymous staffer revealed that the school itself is furious with the decision, the archdiocese is quite content with themselves. In an official statement, they said that booting the child from classes was simply a board-wide policy: “No person shall be admitted as a student in any Catholic school unless that person and his/her parent(s) subscribe to the school’s philosophy.”
Punishing children with expulsion because of the sexual orientation of the parents may be malicious, uncaring, and very un-Jesus-like, but, hey, that’s Catholic schools for you. As a private institutions they’re likely well within their right to behave as unethically as they like.
Not a very good place to send a child, come to think of it.
I managed to survive my entire gradeschool education in the Catholic system, but it wasn’t pretty. Who knew that escaping that awful institution could have been so easy? If only I pretended my parents were gay!
- Catholic school boots student with gay parents [Associated Press]
- Gay couple’s child denied re-enrollment at Catholic school [9News.com]
The St. Albert Catholic School Board has fired a transgendered substitute teacher for being, well, transgenered.
The teacher’s union representing Mr. Jan Buterman has filed a human rights complaint over the firing, with incontrovertible evidence of workplace discrimination. “Since you made a personal choice to change your gender,” a letter received from the school board to Mr. Buterman reads, “we have to remove you from the substitute teacher list.” The letter adds that “the teaching of the Catholic Church is that persons cannot change their gender.”
Gee, they sure go through a lot of trouble to make sure students never have contact with any GLBT role models. I mean, can you imagine what would happen to the students if that were to happen? Surely one shudders at the very thought!
Say… You know, the name of the school board sounds awfully familiar to me… Oh, that’s right! It’s the one in which I spent my entire grade school education. Funny, I still turned out gay.
Now, normally religious institutions are exempt from following human rights laws, but the St. Albert Catholic School Board is publicly funded which throws a bit of a kink into that argument. I don’t know how this human rights complaint will turn out, mind you. Alberta technically does not recognize transgendered individuals in its human rights legislation (and consequently tramples over them whenever possible), but I would hope that either the board follows the same, respectful antidiscrimination laws that other publicly funded institutions are required to follow, or find private sources of funding.
(Hat tip to Mercedes Allen for the story. Read more over at Dented Blue Mercedes.)
A teacher’s resource book has been removed from staff rooms in the Waterloo Catholic District School Board after an anti-gay group, Defend Traditional Marriage and Family, lobbied to have it pulled.
The book, entitled Open Minds to Equality, advises on how to deal with ageism, sexism, and homophobia in schools. While the resource was available for teachers to consult, it was not required reading, nor accessible by students directly.
Jack Fonseca, a spokesperson for Defend Traditional Marriage and Family, was thrilled by his lobbying victory:
[The removal] will make it more difficult for the book to get into the hands of teachers who might’ve been misled by the flawed lessons within.
So, what “flawed lessions” might these be?
Prior to the censorship decision, Fonseca was unable to present anything demonstrative of his rhetoric, only saying that the book “could have the effect of encouraging students and teachers to view the gay lifestyle as being morally neutral,” and adding “they will have been led to reject Jesus.” In an open letter, however, the group said that “the effect of this book is to indoctrinate teachers and children to accept and celebrate homosexuality under the guise of ‘diversity’ and ‘equality.’”
It’s clear from the language used by Defend Traditional Marriage and Family that they are incapable of distinguishing a “morally neutral” presentation of homosexuality from one that “indoctrinates” and “celebrates” the “rejection of Jesus.” When convinced, however, that there is no such thing as gay people—only straight people who are sinning—that’s enough for them to expend great effort ensuring teachers do not even have the option of consulting resources to help them deal with issues that gay students face.
What a sad state of affairs. It’s no wonder Catholic teachers feel they must hide their student compassion from these groups.
Incidentally, of the lobby group’s executive members, only 6 indicated that they support the Catholic School Board on the voter list, and none of the 11 members have their children enrolled in the system. Could all this hoopla over a rarely-consulted resource book be ostensible rhetoric for a larger anti-gay agenda? I think I’ll let Catholic board spokesperson John Shewchuk’s jugement stand on this one: “It seems fairly obvious this group isn’t as concerned about Catholic schools and Catholic education as they would have local Catholics believe.”
The board has kept the book available in a central teacher’s resource library.
Defend Traditional Marriage and Family, an anti-gay lobby group, is trying to ban a book entitled Open Minds to Equality because it presents a “morally neutral” view of homosexuality. The book, an optional teacher’s resource for the Waterloo Catholic District School Board, is unavailable to students.
Jack Fonseca, the lobby group’s spokesperson, said that Catholic teachers should not have the option to read the resource because “[it] could have the effect of encouraging students and teachers to view the gay lifestyle as being morally neutral,” adding “they will have been led to reject Jesus.” In an open letter, the group stated that “the effect of this book is to indoctrinate teachers and children to accept and celebrate homosexuality under the guise of ‘diversity’ and ‘equality.'”
So, which is it? Is the book “morally neutral,” or something that “indoctrinates” readers to “celebrate” homosexuality? Frankly, I don’t think that Defend Traditional Marriage and Family distinguishes the two. Anything that acknowledges the existence of homosexuality without condemning it is akin to “celebrating the gay lifestyle” in their eyes. And that’s enough for them to lobby to ensure teachers are ill-equipped to dealing with issues that gay students face.